No one could accuse Champagne Charles Heidsieck of rushing things or releasing vintages too frequently, not so far anyway. The new vintage of its top cuvée, Blanc des Millénaires, was unveiled in London three weeks ago: the 2004 is only the fifth in the 35 years since the debut 1983 Blanc des Millénaires ousted the previous cuvée, Champagne Charlie, in 1993 and it follows the magnificent 1995 which has been on the market for a decade. There's been no vintage of Millénaires released in between, although it turns out that there was a small amount of 1996 bottled, but they weren't happy with it at HQ, so it's still sitting in the cellars in Reims. Ever selfless, I've offered to go and check a few bottles for them – I'm waiting for the call. Stop press: the call came later on the day I posted this blog. I'm going to taste with chef de caves Cyril Brun at Charles Heidsieck HQ next month.
Presenting the 2004, director Stephen Leroux said that there will be more regular bottlings, i.e. more vintages, of Millénaires in future. Don't bet on a flurry, but a few more would be welcome as far as I'm concerned. I can't help wondering if Champagne Charlie will make a reappearance in some form, too, but let's get to the business, the 2004, which I was tasting for a second time, having had a preview in December last year at The Wine Gang Ultimate Champagne Evening. Fuller tasting notes are below, but I can sum it up in a word: exceptional. Or, in a few more words, the ones I used in my Instagram post: Fabulously complex combination of creamy rich texture, honeyed fruit and long mineral backbone.
Charles Heidsieck Blanc des Millénaires 2004
100% Chardonnay from five Crus in the Côtes des Blancs: the Grands Crus of Avize, Cramant, Oger and Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, and the Premier Cru of Vertus.
Bottled and laid down on lees in 2005 and disgorged 11 years later in November 2016. Dosage: 9g/l.
Youthful, pale colour with tiny, persistent bubbles. Honeyed, biscuity and creamy on the nose, with butter and crème brûlée, but at the same time impeccably fresh. Creamy, superfine chalk-dust texture, tightly packed, candied-citrus flavours with touches of ripe apple and apricot, nuts and honey. Generous, pure and precise with seamless acidity and a spine of mineral and citrus zest running throughout its long length. A beauty.
It's early days for retail stockists, but The Finest Bubble in London will have it available for despatch from 15 February and you can also email the importer, Liberty Wines, for help tracking it down, email@example.com
Photographs by Joanna Simon