Marketing Manager for Wine, Tiffany Mogg visits Piper-Heidsieck.
Being in my 6th year of working in the wine trade, I am one of the fortunate few who can say that I have sampled more than my fair share of Champagne over the years. Having said that, Piper-Heidsieck has never been a Champagne of choice for me, frankly, I have always disregarded it. I can now say with confidence that I was wrong to overlook this quality driven Champagne house.
This is my tale of why…
One of Matthew Clark’s partner suppliers First Drinks kindly hosted an educational trip for eight lucky staff this September to the French region of Champagne with Piper-Heidsieck. Luckily for me, I was amongst those.
Upon arriving in Reims in the late afternoon, we commenced a vineyard tour. Our guide Sophie described the Crus as a mosaic of tiny vineyards with individual terroir, which the winemakers have to piece together to create the final picture, or indeed, finished wine. Looking across the vast landscape of rows of vines it was easy to imagine what a huge undertaking that really is.
The Champagne vineyards are built of 17 Grand Cru, 42 Premier Cru and 319 Cru’s (a Cru is a single vineyard or village in France.) Piper-Heidsieck blends from 100 different Crus which are taste tested each vintage. 45 hectares are owned by the winery which only represents 5% of overall production. The rest of the grapes come from local contractors, therefore working relationships in the local area are strong.
The following day we were treated to a tour of the winery, plus an exclusive tasting with the winemaker (Chef de Cave) himself, Régis Camus. He could not reiterate enough the importance of a Non-Vintage blend to a Champagne House, and more specifically his.
A Non-Vintage Cuvée, defines a house style. Its sets a precedent for the rest of the range, and has to be consistent year upon year. For Régis, Piper-Heidsieck Non-Vintage is his most treasured work. Once grapes have been picked the 100 crus get vinified separately, the base wines are then blind tasted, then piece by piece, the mosaic is put together to make the ‘same’ wine year after year. 1995 saw Régis make the decision to build ‘a library’ of reserve wines for future blends, demonstrating his long term vision and commitment to the brand.
Régis describes Piper-Heidsieck with three key words; structured, ample and fruity, this is the mantra that runs through the entire range. Pinot Noir led (55%) this is what gives the bold flavours and structure. Chardonnay is used (10-15%) for freshness and citrus notes, whilst Pinot Meunier adds pear and apple notes for fruitiness.
Régis Camus is one of only five Chef de Cave appointed by the CIVC (Comite Interprofessionel du Vin de Champagne) that decide when the harvest/vintage can start. This goes just some way to demonstrate the respect that this multi-million pound, world renowned wine region gives to the knowledge and skill of this man – winemaker at Piper-Heidsieck. Not to mention, 8th time winner of IWC Sparkling Winemaker of the Year!
Most of us commented on the deep colour of the Rosé. Régis was quick to defend his decision on purposely making it unlike any other rosé Champagne, bucking the trend for pale/blush pinks. We English have a habit of forgetting that we are not the only target market out there. The French see Champagne as a regular drinking option, not just saved for special occasions like us, therefore, here we had a Rosé Champagne made to be drunk with your dinner! We were lucky enough to try the range with a specially prepared 3 course meal, and I have to say the Rosé with a pork and chorizo main course really was a delicious and exciting match.
I encourage you to look up the rest of the range, as it won’t disappoint you! What can I say? Piper-Heidieck genuinely surprised me (in a good way)!By Tiffany Mogg
We at Matthew Clark are fortunate to be exclusive distributors in the UK, and now, whether for a special occasion, indulgent mid-week treat, or gift, my eyes will now rest upon, rather than skip past, Piper-Heidsieck.