The Champagne Twins

Charles Heidsieck and Piper Heidsieck are both alike and different

Shutterstock/ Doncon Can Staden

Charles’ marketing takes advantage of adventurous, but gentlemanly, history.

Think of Charles Heidsieck and Piper Heidsieck as twins — not identical twins, but fraternal ones — who in recent years have dwelled in the same house. Or, as this is Champagne, the same mansion. They share the same winemaking crew, use grapes from the same dozens of growers spread across the wide river that is Champagne, and are made in the same winery.  They do, however sleep, in different aging cellars.

But for all their shared characteristics, they are delightfully different and live different lives. Their similarities and dissimilarities serve as a great primer for the student of Champagne. In almost all cases, these differences styles come as a result of different philosophies of blending.

Last week, I went to Reims to visit the Heidsieck twins.

Both make the typical ranges of Champagnes — primarily variations of brut, vintage and rosé, with each having a grand marque or icon wine. The differences start with the house styles.  Charles Heidsieck — whose eponymous founder’s personal history involved selling wine in America while his compatriots were in Russia, getting literally caught up in the Civil War and become a real estate baron by accident in Denver — is generally more complex in its taste with savory notes and a richness that rewards aging. The Charles Heidsieck marketing campaign uses the founder’s colorful background for an ad campaign – “Typically Charles.”

Piper Heidsieck has a less-colorful background, but its wines are more showy – generally fruitier and ready for early drinking, although still well-made and somewhat complex. While Piper lacks Charles’ personal history, it nevertheless gets to walk on a lot of red carpets as sponsor of both the Academy Awards and the Cannes Film Festival.

A tasting of bottles now available (prices will vary according to market). Take a look below to read about their unique characteristics and descriptions.

Charles Heidsieck brut 2005

Aged pears with some citrus notes of orange and pineapples.

Charles Heidsieck brut reserve NV

Golden, stone-fruit flavors with complex savory notes of herbs and grains. Rich and refreshing.

Charles Heidiseck rosé reserve NV

Strawberry tartness with young blackberries, cream, and puff pastry.

Charles Heidsieck rosé 2006

Flavors of rose petals and pastry shells — quite floral with light tannins and an intense finish.

Charles Heisieck “Blanc de Millenaires” 1995

A very savory wine with flavors of grain, vanilla and lemon — rich, complex, delicious.

Piper Heidsieck brut NV

Lots of intensity with flavors of citrus, apple, pear, and even a little dried geranium. Lots of satisfying intensity.

Piper Heidsieck rosé NV

A darker rosé with apple on the nose and flavors of cherry, cola, and red vermouth — an excellent food wine.

Piper Heisieck brut 2006

Refreshing carbon notes from the bubbles, some orange peel, some crème brulee — rounded, minerally, some dried fruit peel.

Piper Heidsieck “Rare” 2002

Well-structured, tending toward volume rather than length. Quite elegant with flavors of lemon, custard, roasted nuts and pear.