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March 16, 2023updated 02 Jun 2023 12:38pm

Charles Heidsieck Collection Crayères: The Sixth Edition

By Anthony Rose

Anthony Rose enjoys the trio of 1982 Vintage wines that comprises the latest edition of Charles Heidsieck Collection Crayères, with each bottling serving as a reminder of what a fine year this was for Champagne.

The Charles Heidsieck Collection Crayères, first launched 2017, effectively comprises limited edition rereleases of older vintages stored in Charles Heidsieck’s 5 miles (8km) of subterranean tunnels linking 47 Gallo-Roman chalk galleries in Reims. The initiative is very much down to Cyril Brun, chef de cave at Charles Heidsieck from 2015, and Stephen Leroux, Charles Heidsieck’s MD since its acquisition, with Piper-Heidsieck, by the EPI Group headed up by Christopher Descours in 2011.

Since 2017, these examples of pre- and post-disgorgement extended aging have comprised limited vintage releases of Charles Heidsieck’s Mis en Cave, Blanc de Blancs, Blanc des Millénaires, and Champagne Charlie, often in combination. This year, for its sixth Collection Crayères, the Quality Chop House in London was the venue chosen by Charles Heidsieck’s brand ambassador for a small—dare I suggest exclusive?—lunch, at which to show off the three iterations of Charles Heidsieck’s 1982 Vintage Champagnes: Charles Heidsieck in bottle, in magnum, and Champagne Charlie.

Perhaps because 1982 was the so-called banker’s vintage that kicked off the Bordeaux en primeur phenomenon, it’s easy to forget that it was also a high-yielding year of richness and elegance in Champagne. According to Nick Baker of The Finest Bubble, “The 1982 vintage was near perfect, with an ideal growing season and very little climatic trouble producing a bumper crop of 14,054 kilos per hectare. The summer was warm and dry but produced rain at just the right moments. Picking began on September 17, and the weather stayed favorable until early October, with the last-picked grapes showing some deterioration. All three varieties were successful, but the Chardonnays were particularly fine. A consistently great harvest of rich yet elegant and finely balanced Champagnes of great longevity.” No wonder, then, that Charles Heidsieck chose 1982 as the focus for its sixth Collection Crayères.

Daniel Thibault had been chef de cave at Charles Heidsieck since his arrival in 1978, and so he had his feet firmly wedged under the pupitre by the time the 1982 vintage arrived. He was responsible for the many innovations that saw him lauded as Winemaker of the Year on multiple occasions, including the Mis en Cave concept and the development of Charles Heidsieck’s new super-luxury cuvée, Champagne Charlie, named after the daredevil founder of the firm, Charles-Camille Heidsieck (1822–93).

After whetting our appetites with a taste first of the latest Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve in magnum, followed by Cyril Brun’s superb Champagne Charlie—a multi-Vintage cuvée as distinct from previous iterations, which were all Vintage (or perhaps not quite, as we shall see)—it was down to the serious business of tasting—oh, very well, drinking (but it was a lunch as well as a launch)—of the sixth Collection Crayères and its three 1982s.

Tasting Charles Heidsieck Collection Crayères

Charles Heidsieck Collection Crayères bottle and case
Photography courtesy of Charles Heidsieck.

1982 Charles Heidsieck Collection Crayères

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A rich, golden color, with lime-green glints. The 1982 bottle, comprising 58% Pinot Noir and 42% Chardonnay and disgorged in 1989 after a full malolactic fermentation, displays rich farm-buttered toast and smoky grilled-nuts aromas, followed by spicy, rich, dried stone-fruit flavors hinting at marmalade, with that citrusy acidity that marmalade brings. Drink now to 2026. | 94

Each in its own wooden box, 350 75cl bottles are available worldwide, with a UK allocation of 40 and a recommended retail price of £638.

1982 Charles Heidsieck Collection Crayères (magnum)

A deep old gold in color, this looks almost bronze in the glass and with more evident energetic bubbles. A blend of 58% Pinot Noir and 42% Chardonnay, disgorged in 1989, this is distinctly smoky, with a citrusy quality reminiscent of the kerosene and brown-lime characters of a mature Clare Valley Riesling, before turning truffley, with sweet citrusy marmalade and coffee notes to it. There’s a hint of beeswax and a citrusy freshness cutting through that marmaladey richness to become a transcendently vinous tangerine dream in the mold of a mature Bonnezeaux or Riesling with bubbles. Drink now to 2030. | 95

Each in its own wooden box, 120 150cl magnums are available worldwide, with a UK allocation of 12 and a recommended retail price of £1,460.

1982 Charles Heidsieck Collection Crayères Champagne Charlie (magnum)

Disgorged in 1990, this blend of 53% Pinot Noir and 47% Chardonnay was labeled as Vintage but in fact included 10–15% of reserve wines. It is a rich bronze gold in color, initially showing honey, barley-sugar, and dried-tangerine aromas, with a hint of nuttiness and a beguiling freshness. To taste, there is a seductive, densely textured peachy ripeness, with a note of dried marmalade, whose citrusy underpinning brings energy and freshness. Drink now to 2030. | 97

Each in its own wooden box, 750 150cl magnums are available worldwide, with a UK allocation of 70 and a recommended retail price of £2,050.

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