As Piper-Heidsieck, one of the oldest houses in Champagne, launches its first rosé prestige cuvée rosé. Chef de Caves Régis Camus reveals his top tips for storing and drinking champagne
The Piper-Heidsieck story began in 1785 in a fairytale-like manner, when Florens-Louis Heidsieck of Reims fell in love with a girl from Champagne. Driven by a yearning ambition, the winemaker resolved to make a cuvée worthy of a queen, a feat he achieved three years later when he presented one of his creations to Marie-Antoinette.
The Rare Rosé Millésime 2007 – the house of Piper-Heidsieck’s first-ever prestige cuvée rosé that launched earlier this month – is inspired by no such high-flown romantic notions, but similar devotion has certainly been lavished on its creation, resulting in an excellent and noteworthy Champagne, the latest creation from Régis Camus, chef de caves of one of France’s oldest Champagne houses.
A blend of 17 grape varieties, the cuvée rosé is a marriage of Chardonnay and Pinot noir wines, which have been left to mature for more than eight years. The Champagne, which is presented in a special box made of lacquered black wood and rose gold metal, is golden pink in colour and incorporates notes of lychee and herbs, followed by cherry, wild strawberries and a final aroma of smoked tea. On the palate the texture is light, with the taste of red fruit blossoms merging into notes of vanilla, passion fruit and a hint of paprika.
Camus – who has been crowned Sparkling Winemaker of the Year by the International Wine Challenge a record eight times – attributes both his enduring success and his creation to the Piper-Heidsieck team. “The secret is the teamwork, the passion and rigour. All the wines are good, and the quality is increasing year after year. You can’t become chef de caves just like that, you have to be part of a team.”
As a wine connoisseur who’s passionate about his trade, Camus is also keen to proffer advice on how to store and serve Champagne so as to enhance its flavour. His first tip: keep bottles away from light. “Secondly, keep bottles in a place where the temperature is constant. A cellar coming from -5°C in the winter going up to 20°C in the summer is not a good place to keep Champagne. When it’s hot, serve Champagne at 6°C to 8°C; at a regular temperature, serve at 8°C to 10°C.” He explains further, “You can easily take a wine glass instead of the classic flute. You need a bit more space to have all the aromas coming through.”
"We are just thinking about wine, nothing more than wine"
When it comes to quality control, Camus is accustomed to taking a hands-on approach in the form of daily trips to the tasting room, which he refers to as the “little world of the wine-making team”. Phones are switched off and the wine takes precedence: “We are just thinking about wine, nothing more than wine.”
The future of Piper-Heidsieck is in the safe hands of Camus’s deputy, Séverine Frerson-Gomez, who was born and raised in Champagne and will one day take up the mantle of chef de caves. For the present, however, the Rare Rosé Millésime 2007 – of which just 150 bottles are available in the UK – looks to be one of the finest high-end Champagnes Piper-Heidsieck
has ever produced: a rare vintage indeed.