Happy NYE 2016: Piper-Heidsieck Brut NV

30 12 2016

[This bottle was provided as a sample for review purposes.]

Quick – what’s the most festive thing you can think of to drink right now, right in the middle of this holiday season?  Champagne?  Close.  Champagne wrapped up like a present, complete with bright red bow, in its own custom bottle cozy?  Bingo.  I have long been a proponent of seasonally packaged wines (as long as they’re done right – when done wrong, they’re not pretty), and the holiday edition of the Piper-Heidsieck Brut NV Champagne nails the Christmas/New Year’s vibe about as well as anything I’ve ever seen in a bottle.  Seriously, just look at this thing, first wrapped up:

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Wait for it…

Then unwrapped:

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Oh yeah.  So sweet.

YES.  That is so, so clever.  And it’s reusable!  How can you go to a New Year’s party tomorrow and NOT bring this?  And it’s on sale online at the moment at Willow Park in Calgary, and maybe elsewhere, at a price that’s shockingly friendly for true Champagne from a historic house.  Oh, and most importantly, the juice lives up to the packaging.

The Piper-Heidsieck house was founded all the way back in 1785 and has survived many an obstacle in the centuries since, from proprietors dying in combat to enemy occupation during World War II, to maintain its standing in the upper echelon of the region’s producers.  The most interesting thing about its non-vintage (aka multi-vintage) workhorse Champagne blend is that it is predominantly based on black grapes, with high emphasis on Pinot Noir (which tends to make up over half of the final blend) and Pinot Meunier, leaving Chardonnay, the final grape in the Champagne triad, to play an unusually reduced supporting role.  This sort of blending proportion tends to result in fuller, almost mealier, textures and flavours and darker fruits than you would expect to find in a notionally white wine, a profile that does not always appeal to all bubble drinkers but can be a total revelation to some.  The NV blend is made up of mostly recent-vintage wines but is supported by Piper-Heidsieck’s older reserve stocks to ensure that it falls in line with a consistent house style.

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This particular bottling comes from a blend of as few as 50 (!) and as many as 100 (!!) different single vineyard sources in Champagne, emphasizing and confirming that the primary goal of a house’s non-vintage bubbles is to reflect the house and its approach as opposed to any specific site.  The colour on this NV is quite remarkable, deep golden but also almost pearly and iridescent, shifting and changing depending on your angle of view.  It is largely autolytic on the nose, suggestive of fairly significant time on the lees, powering out forceful aromas of rye bread, poppyseed, rubber boots, matchsticks and (fittingly) freshly cracked New Year’s crackers over top of dried apple, raspberry and lemon curd, all of which come together more effortlessly than it may seem when those words are listed in the same sentence.  Then the true magic of Champagne is unleashed, in the form of innumerable tongue-scouring, improbably minute bubbles that trigger every oral nerve ending and fill every space in your mouth with raging-rapid electricity, elevating every flavour and sensation in their wake.

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Cork Rating: 8/10 (I like the effort on both cork and cage cap; little surface wasted.)

This sparkling chorus carries a more open and approachable tune with it, leading with blackcurrant and pear and then layering smoke and chalk, hot stones and brioche, Wine Gums and popcorn kernels, finishing amazingly straight-edged and clean thanks to rivers of roiling acidity.  Even hours after opening (yes, I have had multiple glasses of this over many hours, for you and for science), the flavours hold firm and the mousse is as present as ever, years of winemaking and maturation effort combining to ensure a single prolonged sensory experience.  This is bold, punchy and unafraid for a non-vintage Champagne, flaunting its deeper, tangier flavours and always inviting further investigation.  Merry belated Christmas and Happy early New Year from Pop & Pour:  this is the glass I raise to you.

92 points

$60 to $65 CDN

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