An electronic mail arrived: would I be taken with an unique status champagne from the favored home of Piper-Heidsieck? It’s common information that Piper-Heidsieck is within the technique of shifting its revered Uncommon, an excellent status providing, to work as a separate entity, very similar to Möet et Chandon has finished with Dom Pérignon.
The brand new champagne was to be launched by Piper-Heidsieck’s new, youthful chef de cave Émilien Boutillat by way of Zoom (the times of visits by the Champenois not having returned for us as but). These concerned would every obtain a bottle to style “with” Boutillat.
And, by the best way, the e-mail continued, the primary of this new line can be from the 1971 classic that had spent an astonishing 48 years on lees. Its full title is the Piper-Heidsieck Hors-Série 1971.
Would I what?!? That is the type of invitation for which one would crawl over damaged glass.
Piper-Heidsieck is an attention-grabbing home, one of many trio of Heidsiecks – that in itself is an extended and concerned story for an additional time. Like so lots of the main homes, possession has bounced round through the years, however for now it’s successfully reunited with, although separate from, Charles Heidsieck.
Charles Heidsieck has firmly established itself as one of many very most interesting of all champagne producers. Piper-Heidsieck, whereas it had a really distinguished historical past, slipped from the highest rungs some years in the past and is making an attempt to recuperate that misplaced floor. It’s typically thought of that up till the early to mid-Nineteen Seventies, Piper-Heidsieck was a stellar champagne home however that it pale considerably round then, shifting to what we would name a “low cost” producer for need of a much less pejorative time period.
The truth that Piper-Heidsieck might produce champagnes of the caliber of Uncommon left nobody in any doubt that it might nonetheless compete on the highest ranges if it needed to. It was simply that many observers weren’t positive they needed to.
I all the time discovered Piper-Heidsieck curious in that it was one of many few homes that endured with a coverage of no malolactic fermentation. Malo, or MLF as it’s usually referred to as, is a course of during which the sharp malic acidity is reworked into the softer lactic acid. Consider the distinction between biting right into a crisp inexperienced apple versus having fun with a extra creamy providing. Different champagne homes together with Lanson additionally observe this model, whereas others go away it as much as the wine as as to if it goes via it or not.
Piper-Heidsieck would normally promote its champagnes fairly younger – nothing flawed with that, however it’s not one thing that’s assisted by no malolactic fermentation, as non-malo wines really want numerous time on lees and within the cellar. Too usually, its champagnes, the NVs (non classic) particularly, have been lean and inexperienced. Piper-Heidsieck modified this coverage some years in the past, which made extra sense.
Nonetheless, a fame is difficult to ascertain, straightforward to lose, after which devilishly troublesome to construct once more. However in the event you have been to go away a wine on lees for an prolonged interval, then no malo is likely to be excellent.
Émilien Boutillat has solely been with Piper-Heidsieck for a number of years, being appointed chef de cave on the extraordinarily younger age of 32. Piper-Heidsieck, nonetheless, just isn’t afraid of youth. Its legendary cellar grasp (chef de cave) Daniel Thibault was 29 when appointed to each Charles Heidsieck and Piper-Heidsieck in 1989.
Tragically, Thibault handed away in 2002 at simply 55. He was the person accountable for many nice champagnes together with the magnificent Charles Heidsieck Blanc des Millenaires 1995, which I’ve talked about earlier than and which remains to be ingesting fantastically (apparently Thibault realized simply how particular the fabric he had that 12 months was and he made three or 4 instances greater than the bean counters had allotted, although I’ll guess stated bean counters weren’t sad as they bought the wine over the following a number of many years).
One other extremely regarded expertise, Régis Camus, stepped into the breach at Piper-Heidsieck after Thibault. He had been with the corporate since 1994 and is the person to whom the credit score for the magnificent Uncommon should go – and he’s nonetheless accountable for it. A quite good contact was Camus successful the Worldwide Wine Problem’s Daniel Thibault Trophy for Champion Glowing Wine together with his 1998 Uncommon.
After Camus concentrated his efforts on Uncommon in 2018, the place of chef de cave went to Séverine Frerson, though she lasted about three minutes earlier than leaping ship to Perrier-Jouët. Enter Émilien Boutillat.
Boutillat was born within the Champagne area, strolling the vineyards together with his father, working within the wineries, and usually being part of, as he places it, “The champagne world.” However he needed to expertise extra and headed to the south of France, the place he undertook diplomas in each winemaking and agronomy.
Boutillat labored at Chateauneuf-du-Pape with Domaine de la Solitude, in Bordeaux with Margaux for the 2009 classic, after which moved forwards and backwards between hemispheres so he might do two vintages a 12 months in New Zealand, Chile, California, and South Africa.
Ultimately, the decision of champagne was too nice and he joined the Cattier household, working with them and the Armand de Brignac champagnes. He joined Piper-Heidsieck on October 1, 2018 and is clearly on a mission to make sure that it returns to its glory days. Nonetheless, he shares one infuriating trait with so lots of the Champenois: he’ll dribble out tiny teases of details about the long run, leaving us all guessing however none the wiser.
Boutillat is aware of what enormous footwear he has to fill as Camus did when he received the coveted Worldwide Wine Problem Glowing Winemaker of the 12 months an unbelievable eight instances between 2004 and 2013. He’s off to an excellent begin, successful that very same award in 2021.
One of many first duties confronting Boutillat was to utterly familiarize himself with Piper-Heidsieck, each side of it, together with what was within the cellar. In doing a radical tasting, one specific pattern blew him away with its freshness and complexity. It was from a group of bottles from 1971 that had been quietly sitting of their intensive cellars, maturing away and nonetheless on lees.
One suspects that none of his predecessors knew fairly what to do with these couple thousand bottles. Boutillat had no such hesitation. And so was born the Hors-Série line of status champagnes from Piper-Heidsieck. The 1971 was to be the “first opus of the brand new assortment.” The transfer is away from the type of Hollywood-in-Champagne persona Piper-Heidsieck appeared decided to create at one time. Now we now have a much-respected home seeking to rejoin the ranks of Champagne’s greatest.
Piper-Heidsieck Hors-Série 1971
The Hors-Série 1971 has now been launched. There are simply 2,021 bottles – acceptable for a 2021 launch (there are a number of extra to be used in media tastings and so forth and little doubt some to stay within the cellars, however the overwhelming majority can be found to the general public).
Whereas costly, the value is extremely cheap when one compares such a wine to what a bottle of Grand Cru Burgundy or First Progress Bordeaux would value after 50 years within the makers’ cellars: AUD$750, £400, $543 (approximate pricing as clearly particular person retailers will differ). They’re to be distributed to fifteen completely different international locations however get in fast as this can be very restricted. Australia’s complete allocation, for instance, is simply 90 bottles.
The bottles have been disgorged within the spring (northern hemisphere). The very last thing Boutillat or Piper-Heidsieck needed was for a bottle that was corked or had failed the check of time to be bought to a member of the general public, so he assiduously tasted each single bottle because it was disgorged earlier than dosage was added. That’s dedication.
This additionally satisfied Boutillat that each bottle was fractionally completely different, to be anticipated after such a very long time. He seen a number of common threads that they adopted, however each one was distinctive.
So, how did a few thousand beautiful bottles occur to be of their cellars? The wine has been launched earlier than, although it could have been very completely different in these days as Piper-Heidsieck’s then-prestige Cuvée Florens Louis from the 1971 classic. The cuvee paid tribute to the founding father of the home, Florens Louis Heidsieck.
The chef de cave of the day was Claude Demière, who remains to be with us at 92. Sadly, the document e book for 1971 has been lengthy misplaced so Demière was pressured to attempt to bear in mind the main points. He believes it is vitally near a 50/50 mix of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Curiously, Richard Juhlin in his excellent A Scent of Champagne notes the Cuvée Florens Louis 1971 as 20 % Pinot Noir and 80 % Chardonnay, however nobody appears to know the place this comes from and it’s believed to be primarily based on incorrect info.
One motive that Piper-Heidsieck is pretty sure that it’s a 50/50 assemblage is that the Cuvée Florens Louis was created to pay homage to the wine that the home’s founder had offered to Queen Marie Antoinette in 1785, and it was a 50/50 mix.
The 1971 is from 12 villages, “Largely from the Montagne de Reims round Verzy and a few Côte des Blancs,” however nobody is strictly positive which 12. Nineteen seventy-one is called an excellent, although maybe not really nice, classic in Champagne.
The dosage is fascinating at 10 grams/liter, which could appear excessive for a status cuvee lately, however we’ll get to that. Boutillat used a 2019 Chardonnay from the Sézannais as the bottom for the liqueur de dosage. He needed so as to add to the freshness but in addition discovered that wine he used for the dosage had the focus for which the 1971 classic was identified.
Again when initially made, the 1971 hung out in stainless-steel – not oak – and as talked about, noticed no malolactic fermentation. The bottles all spent 48 years on lees. The authorized minimal in champagne for a classic champagne is three years, although many of the higher producers will go away their vintages on lees for 4 to 6 and their status cuvees for as much as ten years, typically longer. I’ve by no means heard of a business launch spending something like 48 years on lees.
The unique wine was barely over 9 grams/liter of tartaric acid, which is excessive, and so the addition of 10 grams/liter of dosage all of the sudden makes extra sense, resulting in a extra balanced wine. When the unique Cuvée Florens Louis from 1971 was launched within the late Nineteen Seventies, it had 12 grams/liter of dosage, however I have to stress that this can be a utterly completely different wine.
One level to notice: maintain the bottle within the specifically crafted oak case till you want to drink it to keep away from any hazard from the sunshine damaging the wine – it occurs!
As talked about, that is the primary within the sequence that can grow to be Hors-Série. We are able to count on a brand new launch each one or, extra possible, two years, however don’t count on the following one to be one thing like, say, the 1973 after 4 or 5 many years on lees. It might be something.
The intention just isn’t that this turns into an oenothèque assortment such because the Dom Pérignon P2 and P3 or probably the most broadly identified of the lot, Bollinger’s R.D. Boutillat could determine to function a particular winery, selection, model, or just about no matter takes his fancy. He could even look to one thing they see as a future model. So many choices.
I urged to Boutillat that he will need to have a minimum of the following 5 – 6 already deliberate – it’s merely not attainable to get wines corresponding to these made and available on the market in beneath a decade. The response was merely an impish grin. Little doubt Boutillat has a number of lined up, however he was not saying. The one factor you may be positive of is that they are going to be restricted in manufacturing.
Piper-Heidsieck Hors-Série 1971 tasting notes
So, was it definitely worth the wait? Completely.
A superb champagne, remembering that each bottle is fractionally completely different and that there are a number of threads of flavors which have emerged. Certainly one of these threads for me is most represented by a personality I usually see in previous examples of Bollinger’s R.D., a stunning, truffly, mushroom observe.
My bottle of the 1971 had nary a touch of this in any respect, but others have seen this character. Boutillat additionally spoke of some bottles displaying dry vegetal and dried flower notes. Once more, not the slightest proof of that in mine. Others have a citrusy focus.
You received’t fairly know till you open it, however concern not: I’ve little doubt you’ll love what you uncover.
Mine? A splendidly engaging golden shade. The nostril was instantly gloriously complicated with espresso bean notes. The wine is each recent because the proverbial daisy and displaying severe improvement. Nice depth with notes of spices, nougat, stone fruit, dried figs, and recent ginger. Wonderful focus and nice size.
It didn’t take lengthy however all of those completely different characters quickly gave option to what proved probably the most dominant of all: an impressive aroma/taste most paying homage to a freshly baked apple pie or a dish of wealthy, cinnamonny, stewed apples. Attractive. This character by no means left, and even once I completed the bottle the following day it was nonetheless to the fore!
This baked apple character is one other of the threads that Boutillat has seen within the wines; he talks of “stability and concord” and he’s spot on. A touch of toast sparkles via as nicely. It’s exhibiting extra freshness and stability to proceed to age beneath cork for most likely one other 10, and even 20 years if you need, however there’s merely no conceivable motive to not drink it right this moment. 99/100.
Lastly, the group at Piper-Heidsieck have put collectively a cracking playlist in case you are in want of one thing to take heed to whilst you get pleasure from your ’71. It contains a number of the greatest songs launched in 1971, together with John Lennon, Nina Simone (I do know it’s sacrilegious however I’ve all the time most well-liked her model of “My Method” to Frank Sinatra’s), Leonard Cohen, Aretha Franklin, Janis Joplin, Rodriguez, Pink Floyd, Curtis Mayfield, David Bowie, Tom Jones, George Harrison, and extra. Everybody could have favorites that missed out (no “Mr Bojangles,” critically?), however maybe “Right here Comes the Solar” (the Richie Havens model from 1971, not the sooner one by the Beatles) might have mirrored classic situations and absolutely the primary music of the 12 months, Three Canine Night time’s “Pleasure to the World,” would have been the right accompaniment to such a shocking champagne.
For extra info, please go to www.piper-heidsieck.com/en/hors-serie-1971.