After the departure of cellar master Régis Camus, then the death of Thierry Rosset in 2014 aged just 55, it is fair to say that Charles Heidsieck had lost a little of its shine, even though the wines it continued to produce was of the highest order. House director Stephen Leroux was in London yesterday to launch the Blanc des Millénaries 2004, the prestige Blanc de Blancs cuvée that has ‘big shoes to fill’ following the highly praised Blanc des Millénaries 1995. Anne Krebiehl MW was on hand to taste the new range.
The release of Blanc des Millénaires 2004 is another part of Charles Heidsieck’s objective to be a meaningful player in the premium sector.
2004 is only the fifth release of this Blanc de Blancs cuvée – following 1983, 1985, 1990 and the much-loved and admired 1995. The 2004 “has big shoes to fill,” said Stephen Leroux, director at Charles Heidsieck.
The wine is a blend of equal proportions of wines from five villages in the Côte des Blancs: Avize, Cramant, Oger, Le Mesnil and Vertus. It spent 11 years on lees and is now being released just over a year after disgorgement with a dosage of 9g/l.
It is rich and resonant, with still the merest touch of reduction on the nose at first but equally a lovely tinge of honey. The palate is rich with restrained autolysis and has a lovely saltiness to it and still immense, almost vivid green apple freshness on the finish: a wonderfully elegant, rounded but defined style of Blanc de Blancs.
For Leroux “this wine expresses the ability of sourcing the very finest Chardonnays.”
Blanc des Millénaires 2004 comes with an impressive price tag of £175. However, production is so limited that this may be a way of stretching supplies. Leroux said production was tiny. Overall, the house produces fewer than a million cases. While he would not divulge the exact production of this prestige cuvée, he hinted that an annual volume of about 2500 cases was projected for the coming three to four years.
“Our objective is to be a meaningful player in the premium segment,” he notes almost apologetically, explaining the turmoil in the house after takeovers and the loss of two chefs de cave in the space of six years. But once again all is in place and the wine takes centre stage.
“Step by step we are bringing back shine,” Leroux says.
The collection he showed today did shine: a lovely, perfumed Charles Heidsieck Rosé Réserve NV (RRP £65.99) which created a tiny cloud of spring on such a dreary London day; a very solid, refreshing Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve NV (RRP £48.99); a rounded, creamy and golden Charles Heidsieck Brut Millésime 2006 (RRP £93.99) and an absolutely indulgent, smooth and very balanced Charles Heidsieck Rosé Millésime 2005 (RRP £118). The house style shines through: a refined and perfectly outlined richness at the perfect juncture of freshness.
The original Champagne Charlie (Heidsieck) would be proud.