Today, there are three different champagne houses in Reims that use the name Heidsieck in their company name. The complicated story began when Florenz-Ludwig Heidsieck (1749-1828), of German origin from Westphalia, settled in Reims in 1777 and henceforth called himself Florens-Louis Heidsieck. Shortly afterwards, he married the daughter of the wealthy textile entrepreneur Nicolas Perthois. As early as 1780, he began to produce his own wine and founded his own champagne house with his son in 1785. In 1785 he was received by Queen Marie-Antoinette (1755-1793). When the founder's son died at a young age, Florens-Louis Heidsieck took three of his nephews into the company.
The first to join the company was Henri-Louis Waldbaum in 1795, followed by Charles-Henri Heidsieck in 1805 and Christian Heidsieck, Charles-Henri's younger brother, in 1808. The production was mainly based on the sales of all European princely and royal courts at that time, because champagne was the very popular drink of the ruling class. Shortly before Napoleon (1769-1821) invaded Russia in 1812, Charles-Henri Heidsieck initiated a sensational publicity stunt. He announced that he would travel from Reims to Moscow on a white horse. In fact, he rode into Moscow a few weeks before the French army with several cases of champagne in his marching baggage.
Charles-Henri died in 1824, four years before his uncle Florens-Louis Heidsieck. His son Charles Camille Heidsieck (1822-1893) later founded one of the three Heidsieck houses (see below). The remaining nephews decided to temporarily suspend the trade. A little later, Henri-Louis Waldbaum and Christian Heidsieck started trading champagne again. Soon after, this alliance fell apart and the nephews went their separate ways. As a result, three companies with the name Heidsieck developed, which meant that legal disputes were inevitable. When Heidsieck Monopole celebrated its centenary in 1885, there was trouble with Charles Heidsieck. However, since Charles Heidsieck was later founded as Heidsieck Monopole and Piper-Heidsieck, the court allowed both Heidsieck Monopole and Piper-Heidsieck to refer to 1785. However, the long dispute has long been buried.
Henri-Louis Waldbaum founded Waldbaum-Heidsieck & Co. in 1834 together with his brother-in-law Auguste Heidsieck. After the death of Auguste Heidsieck in 1870, the house traded under different names such as Veuve Heidsieck and Luling, Goulden & Co. until 1910. In 1923, Edouard Mignot bought it and the name Heidsieck&Co. Monopole was consolidated. The company was gradually taken over by the Champagne house Mumm until 1985 and then bought by the Vranken empire in 1998. The vineyards cover 110 hectares with predominantly Pinot Noir in the renowned Ambonnay, Bouzy, Verzenay and Verzy sites. Incidentally, the last windmill in Champagne stands in the Heidsieck vineyards of Verzenay on a hill called Mont Boef. The vintageless champagne "Blue Top" is blended from 70% Pinot Noir, 20% Chardonnay and 10% Pinot Meunier. The sweet brands "Red Top" (sec) and "Green Top" (demi-sec), as well as the "Rosé Top" have the same blend. The cuvée de prestige is called "Diamant Bleu Vintage", made from 50% each of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from the best Grand Crus. Around two million bottles are produced annually.
In 1998, 50 cases (containing 3,000 bottles) of the "Heidsieck-Monopole - Goût Américain" brand of the 1907 vintage were recovered from the wreck of the Swedish ship "Jönköping". The schooner was sunk by a German submarine in the Baltic Sea during the First World War in 1916. The cargo of 4,000 to 5,000 bottles of champagne, wine and spirits had been destined for the Russian Tsar Nicholas II (1868-1918) (incidentally, the Russian Tsar's court ordered around 400,000 bottles of champagne from Heidsieck Monopole every year). The precious bottles were stored for 82 years at a depth of 64 metres and thus at an enormously high external pressure at four degrees Celsius. Due to these optimal storage conditions, the golden-coloured champagne with 12.35% alcohol by volume and a sweet dosage of 42.35 g/l proved to be excellent in a tasting by renowned tasters. This makes this champagne one of the oldest wines in the world that is still enjoyable. At an auction in Moscow, a champagne bottle from this find fetched the incredible price of 224,000 euros, making it one of the most expensive wines in the world.
Christian Heidsieck (+1835) also founded a company in 1834 and traded under the brand name "Heidsieck". After his death just one year later, the house was run by his widow and became known as "Veuve Heidsieck". In 1837, she married her brother-in-law Henri-Guillaume Piper (+1870), a great-nephew of the founder of Heidsieck, Florens-Louis Heidsieck. From 1845, the name Piper-Heidsieck was used, although the Heidsieck brand was also retained in parallel. At the same time, the above-mentioned Charles Camille Heidsieck joined the company, but left again and founded his own company (see below). Henri Piper bequeathed the company to Jean-Claude Kunkelmann. This family had already been involved in the company in the early days of the Heidsieck dynasty. For some time, the house operated under the name Kunkelmann & Cie. Through marriage, the company finally came into the possession of the Suarez d'Aulan family. Since 1988, the property has also included Piper Sonoma in California. In 1989, the house was acquired by Rémy Martin. Finally, in 2011, it was bought (with Charles Heidsieck) by the company Societe Europeenne de Participations Industrielles (EPI) for 410 million euros.
Over time, the company became the purveyor to the court of 17 royal families. The legendary cellar master Daniel Thibault (1947-2002) contributed to the high quality of the products in more recent times. By the way, he was also responsible for the champagnes of Charles Heidsieck. Incidentally, Piper-Heidsieck was the first champagne house to use gyropalettes for riddling. The products are primarily characterised by Pinot Noir. The Cuvée de Prestige is named after the founder "Florence-Louis". Another top product is the mono cuvée "Rare". This vintage champagne is blended from around 70% Pinot Noir and around 30% Chardonnay from precious vineyards. Almost five million bottles are produced annually, a large part of which is exported to Belgium, Germany, England, Italy and the USA. Piper-Heidsieck was also the favourite champagne of Hollywood star Marilyn Monroe (1926-1962). She remarked that a glass of it pleasantly warmed her body. The company also produced a chewing tobacco with champagne flavours for the US market, which was a huge success for decades. By train, you can visit part of the 12 km long chalk cellars.
Charles Camille Heidsieck (1822-1893) married a lady from the Henriot champagne house family, namely Amélie Henriot, just as his father had done. Shortly afterwards, he left Piper-Heidsieck and founded a company called Charles Heidsieck with his brother-in-law Ernest Henriot (1826-1890) in 1851. Heidsieck, who became famous as "Champagne Charlie", was a passionate hunter. In 1857, he travelled to the USA for the first time to hunt and also to promote his champagne. Within a short time, he sold the first 300,000 bottles of champagne over there. With his cultivated manner and extraordinary charm, he quickly became popular in the best circles and, as "Champagne Charlie", an integral part of the New York high-society scene. During the US Civil War (1861-1865), he was suspected of being a spy by the Northern states and imprisoned for seven months. Around 1870, a musical by George Leybourne "Champagne Charlie" was a great success and in 1989 his life was filmed with Hugh Grant. Charles-Eugène Heidsieck took over in 1871. The co-founder Ernest Henriot left in 1875 to devote himself to his own champagne company.
In 1976, Henriot and Charles Heidsieck were merged and Joseph Henriot (1936-2015), a descendant of the then co-founder Ernest Henriot, took control of both companies. Until 1985, unlike the other two Heidsieck companies, the management remained within the family. Jean-Marc Heidsieck was the last manager of the house before it was bought by Rémy Martin (Rémy Cointreau). The new cellar master Daniel Thibault proposed to do without a large part of the champagne production for a few years in order to be able to develop large quantities of reserve wines. This measure was a complete success. Thibault introduced the term mise en cave (cellared) for vintageless champagnes, which indicates the year of bottling on the label. The estate's own vineyards cover 60 hectares. The cuvée de prestige is called "Blanc des Millénaires" from 100% Chardonnay (picture right). This Millésime (vintage champagne) replaced its predecessor "Champagne Charlie" in 1990. Around 3.5 million bottles of champagne are produced annually. The company was bought in 2011 (with Piper-Heidsieck) by Societe Europeenne de Participations Industrielles (EPI) for a rumoured 410 million euros.