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1979 Piper Heidsieck, Rare Vintage
Piper-Heidsieck is another of Champagne’s best-known brands. The house traces its history back to the original Heidsieck and Co., which was founded in 1785 and later split into three different entities, the others being Heidsieck Monopole and Charles Heidsieck.
In 1834 Christian Heidsieck formed his own company that became Piper-Heidsieck. The Piper association comes from 1937, when Christian's widow married Henri-Guillaume Piper and the estate adopted the name H Piper & Co, changed again to Piper-Heidsieck in 1845.
Remy Cointreau, owners of the Charles-Heidsieck Champagne brand, acquired Piper-Heidsieck in 1990.
The house style is rich and expressive in primary fruit. The pinacle in Piper-Heidsieck Champagne collection are the Rare Vintage Cuvées, created by its award-winning winemaker Régis Camus, who was named ‘Sparkling Winemaker of the Year’ for three consecutive years since 2005 in the International Wine Challenge.
26% of vineyards in Champagne are planted with Chardonnay and it performs best on the Côtes des Blancs and on the chalk slopes south of Epernay. It is relatively simple to grow, although it buds early and thus is susceptible to spring frosts. It produces lighter, fresher wines than those from Burgundy and gives finesse, fruit and elegance to the final blend. It is the sole grape in Blancs de Blancs, which are some of the richest long-lived Champagnes produced.
Pinot Noir accounts for nearly 40% of the plantings in Champagne and lies at the heart of most blends - it gives Champagne its body, structure, strength and grip. It is planted across Champagne and particularly so in the southern Aube district.
The final component is Pinot Meunier and this constitutes nearly 35% of the plantings. Its durability and resistance to spring frosts make the Marne Valley, a notorious frost pocket, its natural home. It ripens well in poor years and produces a soft, fruity style of wine that is ideal for blending with the more assertive flavours of Pinot Noir. Producers allege that Pinot Meunier lacks ageing potential, but this does not deter Krug from including around 15% of it in their final blends.
Brut denotes a dry style of Champagne (less than 15 grams per litre). Most Champagne is non-vintage, produced from a blend from different years. The non-vintage blend is always based predominately on wines made from the current harvest, enriched with aged wines (their proportion and age varies by brand) from earlier harvests, which impart an additional level of complexity to the end wine. Champagnes from a single vintage are labelled with the year reference and with the description Millésimé.
Non-vintage Champagnes can improve with short-term ageing (typically two to three years), while vintages can develop over much longer periods (five to 30 years). The most exquisite and often top-priced expression of a house’s style is referred to as Prestige Cuvée. Famous examples include Louis Roederer's Cristal, Moët & Chandon's Dom Pérignon, and Pol Roger's Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill.