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Piper-Heidsieck Rosé Sauvage. Photo: auriettamiu
Today in France, Champagne is part of daily life but until the 19th century, the wines of Champagne were primarily reserved for members of the European royal courts. The reason is simple: in 496 AD, Clovis, the very first King of France, was anointed in Reims, the famed capital of the Champagne region, forever creating an association between Champagne as the “wine of kings” and the “king of wines.” However, Champagne has been revered as the ultimate symbol of celebration ever since Napoleon’s soldiers sabered bottles of Champagne to announce their triumphant victories abroad. Nearly 120 million bottles of Champagne are consumed in France each year (that’s two bottles per person!) and a large number of those bottles are enjoyed on New Year’s Eve.
One of the oldest Houses in Champagne is the legendary Piper-Heidsieck, founded by Florens-Louis Heidsieck in 1785. But it was two women who would play especially pivotal roles in Piper-Heidsieck’s destiny. The first was Queen Marie-Antoinette, who invited Florens-Louis to the Château de Versailles six months after the creation of his House. Thanks to her admiration and patronage, Piper-Heidsieck’s fame quickly spread far and wide, soon becoming the official Champagne to 14 royal and imperial courts as far away as China and Siam. But it was another celebrated beauty that would make Piper-Heidsieck famous in the United States. When asked in 1953 what she wore to sleep, Marilyn Monroe cooed, “Five drops of Chanel No. 5,” before adding, “But I start each day with a glass of Piper-Heidsieck because it warms my body.”
Although well known as the official Champagne sponsor of the Festival de Cannes since 1982, Piper-Heidsieck is also known for its rich history of artistic collaborations, the first of which started when the House asked Karl Fabergé to design its centennial bottle in 1885. In 1896, Aubrey Beardsley, controversial artist of the Art Nouveau era, created an advertising poster of Isolde drinking from a chalice filled with Piper-Heidsieck. Further invitations have been extended to Jean-Paul Gaultier, whose red vinyl corseted bottle caused a revolution in 1999; Viktor + Rolf, who turned Piper-Heidsieck’s Rosé Sauvage bottle upside down in 2007; and Christian Louboutin, who created a limited series of crystal Champagne flutes (in the shape of his eponymous red-soled stilettos, of course) in 2009. In 2011, the House is honored to once again team up with Jean-Paul Gaultier to present Black Cancan, Gaultier’s vision of Piper-Heidsieck’s Vintage 2000.
Most importantly, in 2011, London’s prestigious International Wine Challenge named Régis Camus, chef de caves at Piper-Heidsieck, “Champagne Winemaker of the Year” for the fifth year in a row and the sixth time since Camus assumed the post of chief winemaker in 2002. Today he is recognized around the world and among his peers as one of the most talented Champagne winemakers.
For New Year’s Eve this year, why not serve an entire meal around Champagne?
Piper-Heidsieck Cuvée Brut: The signature of the House, elegant, structured and ample with notes of crisp apples and ripe pears. Many French people celebrate New Year’s Eve with oysters and this wine is the perfect match.
Piper-Heidsieck Rosé Sauvage: With its notes of blood orange and black cherries, this rosé made with an extraordinarily high percentage of red Pinot Noir is a serious wine and the perfect accompaniment to charcuterie like Prosciutto di Parma and chorizo.
Piper-Heidsieck Cuvée Sublime: As the most gourmand Champagne from the House, with its notions of vanilla and nutmeg, this demi-sec is the consummate dessert Champagne. In our family, we serve it at the beginning of the New Year’s meal with thin slices of foie gras atop pieces of gingerbread.
Piper-Heidsieck Vintage 2004: Rated the top-scoring 2004 in the December 31, 2011 edition of Wine Spectator with 94 points, this glorious wine perfectly embodies the elegance and finesse of the 2004 vintage. A triumph with both shellfish and Guinea fowl.
Piper-Heidsieck Rare 2002: Voted Best Champagne of 2011 by Fine Champagne Magazine, Rare 2002 is only the seventh release of this iconic prestige cuvée since the inaugural 1976 vintage, meaning that only eight vintages have been created in the last 35 years. A rare treat indeed, the 2002 vintage will be gorgeous on New Year’s Eve—and equally as gorgeous in the years to come.
Planning on popping the question on December 31st? You’ll easily be able to enjoy this wine again at your 25th wedding anniversary!
Photo credits: Publicity photos from Piper-Heidsieck; Piper-Heidsieck Rosé Sauvage ©auriettamiu and Table de Réveillon ©Julien Raimond.
Christian Holthausen is a Champagne expert who today represents Piper- Heidsieck after representing some of the world’s finest Champagnes. Please click on his name to learn more about him and Piper-Heidsieck.
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