Charles Heidsieck celebrates 150th anniversary with the Collection Crayères auction at Christie’s

Charles Heidsieck celebrates 150th anniversary with the Collection Crayères auction at Christie’s

As far as cellars go, the champagne bar in the Crayères of Charles Heidsieck is quite something. Thirty metres below the town of Reims, aka champagne central, the ancient chalk crayères are typically cold and damp; but rather than low and vaulted, they’re soaring cathedralesque spaces. Carved from chalk in the 3rd century, the founder of the house bought them in 1867, and today the tapering chambers are said to inspire the shape of a Charles Heidsieck champagne bottle.

Recognised as a world heritage site by UNESCO two years ago, you can see why the champagne house chose to celebrate its 150th anniversary in these atmospheric caverns. An international crowd of press and friends of the house gathered to enjoy an immersive installation of sounds and projections on the chalk walls which retold the fascinating narrative of the enterprising young Heidsieck — a tale worthy of Dickins.

Crayères of Charles Heidsieck CREDIT: STEPHANE CARDINALE

Born into a family of wine and champagne producers, Heidsieck established his own company aged 29 and travelled to the US, where he popularised the bubbly alcoholic drink and earned himself the moniker Champagne Charlie. A rollercoaster life followed; periods of financial ruin, accusations of being a spy, a spell in jail and an unexpected inheritance — one third of Denver, Colorado — assured that by the time he died in 1893, business was booming and Charles Heidsieck was one of the world’s leading champagne producers.

It’s recent history has been similarly chequered. Back above ground at a celebratory dinner, Stephen Leroux, director of the house of Charles Heidsieck explained how the brand continued to thrive throughout the 20th century, being the preferred champagne of the great and the good, from Salvador Dali to Princess Diana (it was served at her wedding), only to lose visibility and market share in the Noughties.

Now, under new owners French (luxury goods firm EPI) , who purchased the house in 2011, it’s bouncing back — so much so that Emmanuel Macron served a Blanc des Millénaires vintage at his inaugural presidential reception.

Crayères of Charles Heidsieck CREDIT: STEPHANE CARDINALE

Now Charles Heidsieck are concluding this landmark year with a blockbuster auction at Christie’s. 544 of their rarest bottles and vintages that have been stored for years in their cool chalk cellars are going under the hammer at the auction house in 7th December in London on the 7th December and New York on the 8th & 9th December. The «Collection Crayeres» will be the largest selection of vintages from a single champagne house in history and includes a full vertical of the Champagne Charlie cuvée, including its first 1979 vintage.

Also included are the 1983, 1985 and 1990 vintages of the celebrated Blanc des Millénaires, a wine that has only been released from four vintages (the last is the 1995). There is also a selection of Rosé Millésimés from the 1980s and 1990s, as well as 12 jeroboams of Millésimé 1989, which ought to satisfy big bottle fans.

The immersive installation at the Crayères of Charles Heidsieck CREDIT: STEPHANE CARDINALE

Anthony Hanson, master of wine and a consultant to Christie’s, says “This is one of the finest champagne collections we’ve had the pleasure to taste, including some absolutely astonishing vintages. The provenance is immaculate and we are expecting huge interest in this rare and magnificent collection.”

Full catalogues are available from Christie’s and auctions are open to the public on Thursday 7th December in London and Friday 8th December and Saturday 9th December in New York.