Hors-Série, meaning ”outside the box” in French, is a limited collection of Piper-Heidsieck champagne by chief winemaker Emilien Boutillat, reinterpreting former vintages and creating unexpected cuvées. Boutillat’s aim is to convey the Piper-Heidsieck heritage and, at the same time, highlight its creativity and audacity. The first wine in the collection was Hors-Série1971, released in 2021.

At the launch of the second Hors-Série, Boutillat remarked that 1982 is a unique vintage because if offers quantity, quality and maturity. Quantity and quality usually work against each other, but not in the hot and dry year of 1982, when full ripeness was not compromised by generous yield. Boutillat decided to release Hors-Série 1982, his reinterpretation of Brut Sauvage 1982, one of Piper-Heidsieck’s legendary cuvées of the 1990s.

Champagne is aged in the bottle, and there are two ways of ageing. The first is on lees (dead yeast cells) before they are removed from the bottle (called disgorgement), and the second is after disgorgement, when the bottle is corked. Hors-Série 1982 spent 39 years on lees before being disgorged in January 2022, and it was finally released in January 2023. The wine is vibrant with a nose of ripe yellow fruits interlayered with toasted nuts, followed by spices and honey on the palate.

Brut Sauvage 1982, on the other hand, spent only nine years on lees, was disgorged in January 1992 and then released. A certain quantity of the wine was held back for further ageing under cork at the cellar until now – a total of 31 years. It has a deep gold colour with intense notes of dried fruits, ginger and honey, soft acidity and a round mouthfeel.

Champagne is always topped with dosage, a mixture of reserve wine and sugar, after disgorging in order to balance the acidity. It can be labelled Extra Brut, Brut, Sec, Demi-Sec and so on depending on the quantity of final sugar in the wine. The majority of today’s champagne is in the Extra Brut and Brut ranges, with a low sugar dosage.

In the 1990s, most champagne had a higher sugar level, but Piper-Heidsieck decided to only add 4 g/L sugar to Brut Sauvage 1982, considered a pioneering practice at the time, to preserve the wine’s freshness. For Hors-Série 1982, Boutillat used the same dosage of 4 g/L sugar as that of Brut Sauvage 1982 to accentuate the vibrancy and minerality of the vintage.

According to Boutillat, Hors-Série 1982 demonstrates how different ageing styles can enhance a vintage’s character. For this Hors-Série collection, Piper-Heidsieck released a unique Duo set that consists of the two champagnes – Hors-Série 1982 and Brut Sauvage 1982 – so that wine connoisseurs can contemplate how time plays a role in champagne ageing. The label of Hors-Série was modelled after that of Brut Sauvage 1982 in order to connect them. Boutillat has compared the two wines to twins living separate lives. As you can imagine, there are very limited bottles of Brut Sauvage 1982, and only 500 of the Duo sets have been released worldwide. Wine lovers can also buy Hors-Série 1982 solo, although only 2,500 bottles are available worldwide.

Founded in 1785, Piper-Heidsieck is one of the oldest champagne houses that continues to excel. It’s the first champagne house to achieve B Corp certification, illustrating its commitment to sustainable viticulture and the reduction of the carbon footprint and waste, as well as the promotion of diversity, inclusion and quality of life at work.

Hong Kong is fortunate to have been allocated 12 Duo sets and 48 bottles of Hors-Série 1982. If you want to be one of the lucky collectors, buy them without delay at winenthingshk.com. In case you’re too late to get your hands on a bottle, you can still enjoy other Piper-Heidsieck champagne – some even come in special gift packs.

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A marketer turned winemaker, I make, promote, judge, write about and drink wine.

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