The term “Champagne Charlie” is used to describe ‘a man who lives a life of luxury and excess’ and there are certainly a few of those around right now, but who was the very first to earn this pseudonym?
Charles Camille Heidsieck was an entrepreneurial soul born in 1822 who founded his business in 1851 and a year later, at only 29, he became the first owner of a Champagne House to visit the United States. He took the long trip four more times in a decade, essentially transforming the champagne market by converting Americans to Charles Heidsieck champagne and earning himself the transatlantic nickname “Champagne Charlie”.
Enjoying the highlife, ‘Champagne Charlie’ quickly became a bit of a personality and the jazz classic released in 1858 of the same title cemented him as a legend. A fascinating life of peaks and troughs, Heidsieck all but entirely lost the business during the American Civil War and was arrested as a spy, which created an international incident between America and France.
Narrowly avoiding execution thanks to the input of Abraham Lincoln himself, he was gifted land in Denver which secured his wealth and led to him re-launching his business. Much like its founder, Heidsieck Champagne has had fluctuating fortunes over the years, but it is a hidden gem and is once more taking centre stage as a champagne of quality and finesse. In celebration of the spirit of their founder they have released, just yesterday, the newest edition of their iconic ‘Champagne Charlie’ cuvée.
This is the first release in 37 years and only the 6th release in the history of ‘Champagne Charlie’. The resolution to create this champagne once more shows a desire to reconnect with tradition says Stephen Leroux, Managing Director, “by confirming our decision to make the ‘Charles Spirit’ and Charlie’s passion the essence of the House, we are recreating our crown jewel”.
This will be the first-time cellar master Cyril Brun has created this renowned style, but he took the challenge in his stride.
“I took my inspiration from previous editions, tasting each of the past releases to reconnect with the initial creation… the freshness and aromatic intensity and silky, saline finish”. With no set ‘recipe’ this is a multi-vintage blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in which some components have been aged on the lees for up to a quarter of a Century.
Only launched yesterday you may have to be quick if you want to snap this up. “We will produce only a very limited quantity of bottles for the first issue of this new release, which is, in fact, a rebirth,” explains Leroux. “It will be available only through a very select network of distributors”.
• Bottles are now available at Hedonism and www.thefinestbubble.com for £500, but if you fancy just trying a glass, head to The Ritz, as this will be the only place in the UK serving Cuvée Champagne Charlie by the glass (£75).
Wines of the week
Selladore Rosé, £19, Selfridges
Previously named Williams Chase Rosé this tasty Provence blush is lively and fresh with a silky texture that slips down far too quickly. Grenache dominant with attractive notes of melon and peach and a pretty glass-stoppered bottle, it makes for enjoyable summertime drinking.
Château Marsau 2018, £27, Berry Bros. & Rudd
The first vintage this Bordeaux started its conversion to organic practises, this is a beautiful bottle showing a fine structure and vibrantly fresh complexity. Violet and rose petals dance over gorgeously ripe, dark fruits by skilful winemaker Anne-Laurence Chadronnier.
Rathfinny Blanc de Blancs 2018, £40.50, Rathfinnyestate.com
Sussex has been in the news with the government approving its status as a ‘Protected Designation of Origin’. A huge step for UK wine, globally! What better way to celebrate than the newly released vintage from one of the best years for English wine? A fine zesty purity with whispers of English-garden herbs.
Oastbrook Brut Cuvée 2014, £38, Hawkins Bros
English Wine Week has just come to a close, but it is not too late to grab yourself a delicious bottle, such as this effervescent beauty from firebrand winemaker America Brewer. Crunchy green apples and lemon peel with baking spices at the finish. There is something so very English about this bubbly!
Zuccardi ‘Concreto’ Malbec 2020, £28, Tanners Wine
An Argentine Malbec with a difference, this was born of Sebastian Zuccardi’s desire to change the way Malbec is seen. He calls ‘Concreto’ the wine that changed his life. Fermented and aged in concrete rather than traditional wood this is juicy, bright and floral with a finely honed elegance. Excellent.