Interview with Régis Camus and Séverine Frerson Chefs de Cave at PIPER-HEIDSIECK

BEST CHAMPAGNE had the pleasure of interviewing Régis Camus and Séverine Frerson, Chefs de Caves of PIPER-HEIDSIECK, one of the largest and oldest Champagne Houses. 

Regis Camus and Serevine Frerson Chef de Cave at PIPER-HEIDSIECK

Régis Camus and Sérevine Frerson have been working together for the last 15 years to produce beautiful champagnes of pleasure and joy

Founded in 1785 by Florens-Louis Heidsieck, today the House produces, impeccably, five million bottles of champagne a year that are sold all over the globe, and are renowned for their distinctive structured fruity style, with a lot of elegance and finesse, and recognized for their gold and red label.

Guarantor of the style and quality of the wines is Régis Camus, a brilliant, witty, curious gentleman named Sparkling Winemaker of the Year eight times!

He works hand in hand with Séverine Frerson, a bright and precise mind with an unusual sense of intuition.

Together they taste, analyze, play, estimate, share, to create beautiful wines of pleasure and joy, which win medals and awards over and over. 

Read on to learn about the distinctive style of the PIPER-HEDISIECK champagnes and do not hesitate a moment to taste them: a smile on your face is guaranteed :).

BEST CHAMPAGNE: How do you define PIPER-HEIDSIECK’s style? What do you want to transmit with your champagnes?

Régis Camus: PIPER-HEIDSIECK is a style based on structure, fruit, freshness, and richness. We want to make champagnes that bring smiles.

Séverine Frerson: PIPER-HEIDSIECK champagnes are radiant and elegant. It is a style around the fruit and structure of the Pinot Noir, with a lot of elegance and finesse.

BC: How grape variety, terroir, and assemblage participate in the construction of PIPER-HEIDSIECK’s style?

RC: Champagne is first and foremost a blended wine, of different terroirs and grape varieties, and years with the reserve wines, to guarantee the continuity of the style of each House.

The magic of the assemblage makes the blend of many wines superior to its mere sum.

SF: We use the three grape varieties of Champagne, from 100 crus from the whole Champagne region.

We work with the Chardonnays from the Montagne de Reims and the Côte des Blancs, the Pinots Noirs from the Montagne de Reims and the Côte des Bars, and the Meuniers from the Marne Valley and the North of Reims.

Each sector brings its typicality to the blend: we let the soil and the wines express themselves. The style PIPER-HEIDSIECK tends towards this authenticity of terroir in the blend.

With our teams we taste nearly 200 new wines each year, from different villages, and before creating the final blend we taste these wines again as they evolve over time.

According to the results of these tastings we prepare pre-blends to groups different expressions, some floral, other fruity, or spicy.

We also work with reserve wines, with an average age of 5-6 years for PIPER-HEIDSIECK Brut, of which half Chardonnay and half Pinot Noir.

The goal of our Brut champagne is to express this fruity character of apple, pear, citruses such as grapefruit, with elegance and freshness.

BC: Your Brut champagne embodies, year after year, the style of your House. How do you guarantee its continuity over time?

RC: Our Brut represents PIPER-HEIDSIECK’s style and it is the flagship of our House. It must always be identical and its quality must always be impeccable, regardless of the quality of each harvest.

Each year we rebuild the style of PIPER-HEIDSIECK by assembling a puzzle where the pieces are the three grape varieties of Champagne: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Meunier, and of course the reserve wines.

The Chardonnay will bring aromas of flowers, white fruits, citruses, and minerality but in a different way according to the sectors of origin.

The Meunier brings a very fruity side, a certain roundness.

The Pinot Noir, especially from the Côte des Bars, provides structure to the wine, and aromas of red fruits typical of PIPER-HEIDSIECK.

BC: Why do you use grapes from the Côte des Bars, without any grands or premiers crus, in your blends?

SF: The wines of the Côte des Bars have become preponderant in our blends since the 2000s. Régis Camus was the first to capitalize on this terroir, for wines that bring a certain freshness, and an important fruity side to our blends.

RC: To me, it is not a question of using wines from grands crus, premiers crus or ordinary crus; I am thrilled by certain wines and not by others.

The Côte des Bars is an integral part of the terroir of Champagne and its different terroirs, which we assemble in our champagnes.

BC: Let’s go back to the reserve wines …

RC: To make a beautiful champagne you need beautiful grapes, vinify them properly, but also blend them with reserve wines, in line with the style of the House.

It’s easier to build this puzzle that I was talking about in great years with grapes of a superb health, with nice acidity and nice sugar levels.

But in less generous years, this exercise is more complicated without the support of reserve wines that allow this continuity of style in the Brut non-vintage champagne.

We therefore need, each year, to categorize the wines of that vintage and identify their aging potential. Those with an aging potential of 3-4 years will rather be used as the base in our Brut champagne and those with a much longer aging potential are put aside as reserve wines or used for our vintage champagnes.

BC: How do you undergo this wine categorization exercise?

SF: The categorization of wines is a fairly methodical work that requires a certain rigor but at the same time that must leave space to our emotions and our feelings.

It takes a lot of intuition to recognize the potential of a wine. While it is still young and “closed”, we make guess, we try to project what it can give in the future years. It’s a question of intuition and experience.

BC: How to perpetuate the House style without becoming obsolete?

RC: House styles have always evolved. Champagne 30 years ago would be too vinous for the tastes of today’s consumers, especially for the younger ones, who appreciate lighter, floral and fruity champagnes. We watch, listen, and adapt.

But we also try to anticipate the changes by imagining what our consumers will want in 5 or 10 years.

That’s why each year we bring a little touch of innovation in our style, but which should not be felt in the short term.

BC: How would you describe your job? What’s the best part of it?

SF: The Chef de Cave is the guarantor of the style of the House and its wines, and the ambassador and the spokesman of the House and its style around the world.

It is a profession of passion, encounters, and transmission, similar to the style of PIPER-HEIDSIECK that Regis retransmitted to me during the 15 years that we worked together.

PIPER-HEIDSIECK is a famous and respected House, in Champagne as well as internationally, and this makes me very proud.

RC: Our job takes passion but also a lot of intuition, and the choice of Séverine for my succession is based on her sense of intuition that is even stronger than mine.

When we create a champagne, whether it is a Brut that will be marketed in 3 years or more or a vintage that will be marketed in 6-8 years, we are not allowed to make mistakes, hence the need for this sense of intuition.

You must also have a strong personality, to make assertive choices and not go back.

What makes me really happy is to see people with a smile in their eyes when they enjoy PIPER-HEIDSIECK.

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