Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve Non Vintage Champagne (NV) is one of the best value and most under-appreciated non-vintage Champagnes you can find on the market. And I don't say that lightly. It has long been a staple in our house to mark lots of special moments in time. Appreciably Champagne is not cheap, but certain occasions warrant a little splashing out.
This Brut Reserve has a very attractive deep golden color — deeper in color than most NV Champagnes, due to the high percentage of reserve (older) wines in the blend. The bubbles are pinprick tiny and persistently rise to the top. On the nose, it shows a bounty of biscuity, bready and toasty autolytic notes that evolve and draw you in, with nuances of dried fruits and flowers in the background. On the palate a spine of crisp acidity adds just the right amount of tension to the very lively, refreshing mousse and round, creamy mouth feel. It has excellent depth of flavor — biscuity, toasted brioche with notes of dried apple, apricot and red berries. A pronounced chalky minerality persists across the palate to a long, lingering finish.
At the Table: Too often Champagne is relegated to the sole role of apéritif or after-dinner drink. In my opinion, it deserves a more constant place at the table. With its bright acidity and refreshing flavor, Champagne is one of the most versatile wines to pair with food. This Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve NV is a more full-bodied wine and will work not just with fish and shellfish, but also meat dishes. I particularly like this wine with a roasted rack of baby lamb. Give it a try!
About Champagne Charles Heidsieck, and this Brut Reserve NV
Champagne Charles Heidsieck, a relatively small, artisan Champagne House, was founded in 1851 by Charles-Camille Heidsieck — who was known as Champagne Charlie, after he traveled west to the US in the 1850s to sell his Champagne, when most of his peers in Champagne were looking east toward Russia. The Brut Reserve NV is a typical Champagne blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. It was aged for three years on the lees before disgorgement.
What makes this non-vintage Champagne so special is the percentage of reserve wines added during the assemblage (blending), before the wine undergoes its second fermentation. At Champagne Charles Heidsieck this percentage is 40% (of wines dating back 5 to 15 years) - much higher than most Champagnes, which typically have between 10 and 20% reserve wine. Reserve wines add depth of flavor, maturity, complexity and expression to non-vintage Champagnes.
Mary Gorman-McAdams, MW (Master of Wine), is a New York based wine educator, freelance writer and consultant.
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(Image: K&L Wines)