Just after you figured out which letter gets the umlaut in Moët & Chandon (not to mention how to pronounce it), it’s time to learn about Piper-Heidsieck (PIPE-er HIDE-sick). Not because the French Champagne house gets a lot of beautiful people drunk at the Oscars; not because the brand sprang out of a love story; not even because they’re among the first producers introducing special robotic technology into their vineyards (don’t panic — more below).
Get to know Piper-Heidsieck because the brand sits in that happy place where a thirsty imbiber might invest a few extra dollars in a next-tier bottle (in fact, VinePair recently ranked Piper-Heidsieck Cuvée Brut NV among the best Champagnes under $50); and because of its fascinating pedigree as a Champagne house that’s straddling more than 200 years of history with technological and cultural advancement. (Not to mention: If it’s good enough for Marilyn Monroe to drink every day, it’s worth a few minutes’ reading time).
Here are nine things you should know about Piper-Heidsieck.
There’s a mini soap opera in every bottle.
Piper-Heidsieck founder Florens-Louis Heidsieck was just a lowly draper in Reims when he fell in love with a young woman from the Champagne region. Because love has always made us batty, Florens followed her to her homeland and promptly fell in love with its bubbly, adding Champagne to his cloth and draping repertoire in 1785 and beginning what would ultimately become a wildly successful global Champagne brand. (The cloth part was eventually dropped.)
The Piper-Heidsieck soap opera gets a little soapier.
It’s already plenty juicy that Florens-Louis Heidsieck followed a woman to Champagne, but the Piper-Heidsieck melodrama doesn’t end there. After Florens passed in 1828, his nephew Christian Heidsieck took the reins alongside his cousin Henri- Guillaume Piper. Things get really juicy when Christian passes away suddenly — and after an appropriate mourning period, Henri marries his cousin’s widow in 1838, at which point Piper-Heidsieck becomes the official company name. (Suddenly, everyone dating each other on “Friends” seems a lot more innocent.)
The founder (probably) hand-delivered his bubbly to Marie Antoinette.
There were royal scandal-makers well before Meghan Markle (we’d run to Canada, too). One of the most famous, Marie Antoinette, was such a fan of bubbles that Florens-Louis Heidsieck knew he had to impress her if he wanted to make a dent in the brimming Champagne market. So, he brought his bubbly to Versailles. Marie Antoinette liked it so much that she gave Heidsieck the equivalent of 14 exclusive VIP accounts in the royal court. (Fun fact: The Champagne coupe glass is rumored to have been designed after the shape of Marie Antoinette’s breast. That’s disputed, but at the very least we’re certain this modern coupe glass is definitely shaped like Kate Moss’s left breast.
Marilyn Monroe powered through Piper-Heidsieck like you go on a Starbucks run.
It adds to the mystery — and a bit of the tragedy — of the blonde bombshell to learn that Marilyn Monroe used Piper-Heidsieck as a pick-me-up the way you and I might drink a latte when boredom or 4 p.m. (or, God forbid, boring 4 p.m.) strikes. Marilyn was rumored to keep a month’s supply of Piper-Heidsieck in her kitchen to dip into anytime the day lagged, or the rest of the population seemed disappointingly un-Marilyn. In fact, a Cosmo senior beauty editor recently followed suit, living like Marilyn for a week and popping bottles all over the offices of Cosmopolitan (which somehow still put out a magazine that month).
Piper-Heidsieck cellars were (briefly) a WWII weapons hiding place.
Among the panoply of entrepreneurs, lovers, widow-marrying cousins, and Champagne enthusiasts, at the helm of the Piper-Heidsieck family business over the years was an avid pilot named the Marquis Jean de Suarez d’Aulan (he married into the family that took over after Henri-Guillaume Piper passed). The Marquis was not only a valiant pilot in World War II, but he allowed members of the Champagne Resistance to hide some of their weaponry in his cellars.
The brand gives a range of sparkling expressions to explore.
While the main blend focuses on the three grapes most vital to Champagne — Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay — a bottle like their 2002 Rare Millésime has a full 70 percent Chardonnay from the Reims region, not to mention seven years of cellar-aging. For an ultra-luxe tasting, line up bottles of various blends side-by-side to understand the strengths each grape brings. For the Chardonnay-led Rare Millésime, for example, look for tropical and citrus fruits at its core, with age coaxing anything from spice to herbed biscuit to creamy nuttiness, like the white interior of an almond.
Piper-Heidsieck is introducing robots to the vineyard.
We’re not talking Terminators stomping the grapes of Champagne (not yet, anyway). However, the future is now thanks to Piper-Heidsieck’s recently appointed “chef de cave” (a.k.a., “guy in charge of deciding important things about the bubbly”), 32-year-old Émilien Botillat. Among some of his “wild” ideas that could revolutionize (and/or scandalize) an industry deeply entrenched in tradition are “vitibots,” or A.I. technology specifically useful to vineyard management. Boutillat invested in a startup making “vitibots” and has already brought one to Piper-Heidsieck — but don’t worry, it’s an autonomous tractor meant to encourage precision spraying and not slowly, systematically destroy the Champagne region for its robot overlord.
It’s the official drink of the Oscars.
Piper-Heidsieck is back as the official Champagne of the Oscars, so if you’re looking to at least sip like the stars in 2020, here’s your shot (a bottle of the non-vintage brut runs just about $35). FYI, stars love Piper-Heidsieck as much as Marilyn used to; according to organizers of the 2017 Oscars, a bottle of Piper was popped every eight seconds.
It’s not too fabulous for ice.
Piper-Heidsieck was brave enough to risk some serious drinks-shaming, creating a Champagne specifically meant to be enjoyed on ice. Piper-Heidsieck Riviera edition was inspired by the sunny scenes at Cannes and St. Tropez with a blend of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay that leans lighter, plus a hint of added ginger (which isn’t as insane as it sounds, considering the thrill of a bit of a spice riding up the icy bubbles as you inform your yacht captain that you will, in fact, be cave-diving later).