Charles-Camille Heidsieck was the first champagne-maker ever to travel to America. His great uncle Florenz-Louis Heidsieck had emigrated from Germany and founded Champagne Heidsieck & Co in Reims just a few years before the French Revolution (1785), when he married the daughter of a local wool merchant. Later on during the Napoleonic Wars, Charles’s father Charles-Henri famously rode a white stallion all the way to Russia as a publicity stunt. Only son Charles-Camille became a champagne-maker himself aged 29 (Champagne Charles Heidsieck was founded in 1851) and by the time he turned 40, had already built up a significant business. But Charles was a gentleman adventurer at heart and, not satisfied with this early success, grew determined to tackle the New World. New York was his first stop.
Every scion of a Champagne House was automatically raised as a good hunter and Charles was no exception. Given his destination, Charles resolved to combine business with pleasure by shooting bear and buffalo in the wilderness during his annual American trips. From 1857 to 1868, Heidsieck made four trips to the United States, always bringing with him the most modern firearms available in Europe and promoting samples of his delightful wines in cities such as Boston, New York, Washington DC and Richmond.
Up and down the Eastern seaboard, his sporting feats were reported in the newspapers with pictures and his company name before he even arrived in town. Consequently, his parties and receptions were extremely successful. The debonair and charismatic Heidsieck was soon the darling of American society and the media − who affectionately nicknamed him “Champagne Charlie”. In New Orleans, he actually sold as many as 360,000 bottles per annum to a population of only 500,000, which goes to show that publicity really does work!
Unfortunately, on his final trip, Charles-Camille Heidsieck found himself caught in the middle the American Civil War. Hostilities prevented him from receiving payment for his champagne and, eventually, these losses threatened the very survival of his House. Heidsieck was obliged to travel in person from New York across several battle lines to New Orleans to try and retrieve his stock. He couldn’t find a way through but eventually reached the port of Mobile, Alabama. Here, the French vice-consul persuaded him to carry a diplomatic bag into Louisiana. Unfortunately, the ship on which he sailed was intercepted by the Yankee Navy who seized the bag and, discovering secret documents offering French assistance to the Confederate Forces, imprisoned the poor innocent Heidsieck in a squalid port on the Mississippi Delta. It took four months before the French Government could negotiate his release. He finally recovered most of the funds owed to him but returned to France a physically broken man. However, the name Charles Heidsieck was now firmly established in the American consciousness, and both Charles and its sister company Piper Heidsieck champagnes are still incredibly popular brands in the US today.
KEY CHARACTERISTICS: Fresh but multi-layered champagne with wonderful palate length, exhibiting yeast-age complexity (40% reserve wines are used to maintain the House style). One of the best value non-vintage champagnes on the market.
BLEND: 40% Pinot Noir, 35% Pinot Meunier, 25% Chardonnay.
Meet The Champagne Makers Ep Champagne Piper & Charles Heidsieck
International House Communications Director Christian Holthausen is the perfect effervescent gentleman host, very much in the mould of his famously well-loved 19th century predecessor “Champagne Charlie”. Here Christian takes Champagne Jayne TV through a tasting experience of 2 ‘opposite’ champagnes for each of the brother houses and offers up his favourite food and wine matching tips. Yum!