One of the several famed surnames in Champagne, Heidsieck, in this particular instance, has undergone a transformation in the last decade. Now owned by the same family that owns Charles Heidsieck (seriously one of the best glasses of liquid you can buy), the Cuvée Brut from Piper is now crisp, delicious, complex, balanced, layered and full of vivacity and class. And they haven't put the prices up yet...
What's in a name? Yes, yes, I know all that.. but in this corner of the Champagne story, there is a really interesting, even Romantic, tale with the Heidsieck dynasty. Recent years has seen the smaller Charles Heidsieck house climb to phenomenal acclaim.
With this success an the changing ownership that saw Piper and Charles in the same hands, Charles became the benchmark for the production values of its much larger sibling, Piper Heidsieck.
The secret to the success is, to borrow from Paul Graham, doing things that don't scale. The amount of attention that they can give to Charles Heidsieck is very high, because the scale of their production is really very small. It's a well-funded, boutique-style operation that uses a high proportion of reserve wine from grapes sourced in 60 cru vineyards, before the wine is aged on its fine lees for three years.
This is something that larger scale Champagne wineries cannot afford to do. So, for Piper, who make a much larger volume of wine, taking bits of this philosophy has reaped real rewards.
They might not be able to afford the same detailed approach as Charles, but they are doing it in bite-sized pieces: there is an increased proportion of reserve wines, there is a better sourcing of the grapes, and now lees aging that adds amazing complexity and depth.
But Piper is also its own house. The first ever Champagne to be seen in a film (Laurel and Hardy...) it was also Marilyn Monroe's favourite Champagne ("I wake up with a glass of Piper Heidsieck) and it has been the Champagne served at the Oscars (no first-hand proof, alas...). It's style has often been described as elegant, generous and round and now with a sharpening of the focus on quality details, it is a serious contender again.
Grape(s): Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, Chardonnay
Style: Medium Bodied, Elegant, Complex, Bright
Best food matches: Trout, Sushi, St Stephen's Day, Spicy, Shellfish, Poultry, Oysters, Lobster, Lamb, Game, Fine Dining, Cheeses