Every time you’re drinking Piper-Heidsieck Brut, you’re drinking history. It’s a firm that’s over 200 years old, and its Champagne has been drunk by royalty, film stars and the world’s wealthy. You’re in good company. And it all started in France during the reign of Louis XVI.
The Story of Piper Heidsieck Brut
- 1777 – Heidsieck, a German from Westphalia, visits Champagne, and gains an appreciation for the wine.
- 1785 – ‘Heidsieck & Cie’, the company that would become ‘Piper Heidsieck’ is founded in Reims. In this year, Marie Antoinette also samples Heidsieck’s Champagne, and takes a liking to it. Royal patronage helps to secure the brand.
- 1793 – Marie Antionette is guillotined in the French Revolution. The same fate does not befall her Champagne suppliers, but Moet & Chandon find greater favour with the Corsican General who comes to lead France, Napoleon.
- 1800 – Two of Heidsieck’s nephews, Christian and Charles-Henri, start working in his business. Interestingly, different parts of the extended Heidsieck family found the Heidsieck and Monopole Champagne house, as well as the Christian Heidsieck house, although the latter is produced by the son of the Christian Heidsieck noted here.
- 1811 – In a move of breathtaking cheek, or entrepreneurialism, Charles-Henri Heidsieck rides into Moscow. He is just ahead of Napoleon’s advancing army, and arrives with cases of Champagne as well as an order book. He intends to sell wine to whoever wins the battle.
- 1815 – Henri-Guillarme Piper, who is Christian’s cousin, also gets involved in the family business. If you’re confused about who’s related to who at this point, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
- 1828 – Heidsieck passes away. His nephews, Christian and Henri-Guillarme Piper, now run the show. Notably, Piper does the marketing. As a result, people start conflating the name ‘Heidsieck’ and ‘Piper’ together, as they order ‘Piper’s Heidsieck’. Poor Christian.
- 1835 – Christian Heidsieck dies as well. Even poorer Christian.
- 1838 – Now comes the odd bit in the family tree where one of the branches melds into another branch. Henri-Guillarme Piper marries Christian Heidsieck’s widow. That means the cousin of the nephew of the company’s founder has just married the widow of the company founder’s nephew. Phew! If Christian’s body didn’t spin in his grave, his head might have.
- 1839 – ‘Piper’ is officially added to the ‘Heidsieck’ brand name.
- 1885 – The famous jeweller Carl Fabergé produces a bottle encrusted with lapis lazuli, diamonds, and white gold. It carries a special champagne to commemorate the company’s first century.
- 1933 – A bottle of Piper Heidsieck appears in a Laurel and Hardy film, Sons of the Desert. The product placement is a PR coup that enshrines the brand’s presence in Hollywood, and associates it with 20th Century luxury.
- 1944 – The husband of the Piper-Heidsieck heir hides weapons for the Resistance in their champagne cellars. Just before being arrested, he escapes to North Africa, but is ultimately killed in battle.
- 1953 – Marilyn Monroe claimed to drink a glass of Piper Heidsieck each morning. When she did it, it was glamorous. When I did it, my family held an intervention.
- 1965 – The company produced the biggest bottle of Champagne ever, a Melchisedech. It carried the equivalent of 64 bottles, and was 1.82 metres tall. Its contents were from the 1959 vintage, and it celebrated the celebrate Rex Harrison’s Oscar for Best Actor in ‘My Fair Lady’. I hope he had some alka seltzer.
- 1976 – Incredibly good conditions see Piper-Heidsieck produce its first ‘Rare’ vintage. In fact, you can read about the house’s most recent rare vintage in this article on Gold Champagne.
- 1982 – The company starts sponsoring film festivals such as Cannes, and Venice.
- 1985 – Piper-Heidsieck is now 200 years old. The jeweller Van Cleef & Arpels reproduce Fabergé’s bottle from 1885, and it is valued at $1 million. Armed guards take it around the globe.
- 1988 – The Rémy Cointreau company acquires Piper Heidsieck.
- 2011 – The brand is sold again to EPI, a group of French luxury brands, and the story continues…
The Champagne Itself:
Being of high quality, this is a more balanced style of champagne. Due to its lower acidity, it is actually less well suited to seafood, and of course, it is a dry style of champagne. Enjoy it with wild mushrooms and pasta.