This particular visit was spectacular (we visited in the nature of 12 champagne houses). Everything from the sun setting over the “secret garden,” to walking down 15o steps and looking up at the small opening in the cave ceiling, to Sophie (our guide) at Charles Heidsieck.
Charles Camille Heidsieck (1822–1893) was a French Champagne merchant
who founded the Champagne firm Charles Heidsieck in 1851.
He is credited with popularizing Champagne in the United States
and was known as “Champagne Charlie” during his stay.
During the American Civil War Heidsieck was imprisoned
under suspicion of being a spy for the French government and the Confederacy.
His imprisonment sparked an international incident between
France and US over what became known as The Heidsieck Incident.
I never would have imagined I would actually have a private tour of this champagne house – as in Somm School we were told it was very exclusive – but somehow we managed to set this up this past fall and I see why this was a “private tasting and tour” I have included an excerpt from my book from the “Charles Heidsieck Event” in Paris that I worked at the Four Seasons George V Hotel in Paris.
But first – we walked with our Champagne through the garden as the sun was setting over the trees. It was a crisp fall day in Champagne. To add to the mood we were all dressed to the nines as immediately after this tasting we were taken to our 6 course 3-Michelin Star dinner at L’Assiette Champenoise …
Then we walked 150 steps down underground – in pure chalk caves which also serves as the storage cellar for all of the incredible vintages of Charles Heidsieck.
That light is the grounds of the gardens above… it was very very far down, and I’m not sure the photo even does the feeling justice.
Then once in the caves, there was special lighting highlighting all of the vintages and special 100 + year old bottles. Chandeliers, special sconces, old plaques … it was incredibly displayed.
We tasted four vintages that day – in the “salon” and I felt like royalty. I could feel the significance of this champagne house, and the ties to the US.
EXCERPT FIFTY TWO
The next evening we were in the Eighth Arrondissement. I always loved it when I was called over to the famous avenue of the Champs-Élysées. I noticed I tended to stay on the Left Bank more often than not, and like a true Parisian I only left my neighborhood when I had something going on. Once you are in the groove in Paris, you start having your spots. Whether it be your butcher shop, your cheese shop, you start to personally know all of the fruit and vegetable vendors, and of course your favorite cafés.
The Four Seasons/Charles Heidsieck event was successful, although tiring. My favorite part of all was standing in this grand hotel, taking in the vastness and the pure luxury, people-watching and observing the French dining experience, and being immersed in this underground food and wine world within the greater French culture. I always loved being the observer, and it connected me to why we were studying what we were. The food and wine culture of Paris was magical. It was an art, it was taken seriously, and I took immense pride in understanding it. That evening was a synchronized event, almost like watching a performance in a pool. Once every dish was placed on the table, we would waltz over with a bottle of Champagne and pour, ladies first, clockwise, and repeat. This event lasted five hours not including setup and cleanup. It was a presentation with speakers at podiums, all speaking in French about the different vintages of Charles Heidsieck we were pouring. A formal dinner to the nines, and we were along for all of it. The entire event was dedicated to the elusive Charles Heidsieck Champagne House… I wanted to know more.
And I’ll leave you with this famous cave arch – this has been featured in wine magazines all over the world. This natural opening down in the chalk caves is what inspired the pattented bottle design for Champagne Charles Heidsieck.
Evelyn Anderson says
Fabulous Krista. What a joy you’ve experienced.