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It all began with Florens-Louis Heidsieck. Born in Westphalia in 1749, this son of a Protestant minister started out as a draper in Reims, where he fell in love with a girl from Champagne—and with the wine from Champagne. He was a self-educated man, overcome with the ambition “to make a cuvée worthy of a queen.” In 1785 he founded the cloth and wine trading company Heidsieck & Co. He straightaway made his name with a distinctive Champagne, whose reputation quickly spread beyond the local region and won favor at court.

Heidsieck (left), the daring founder, and Piper, the passionate promoter.

Heidsieck (left), the daring founder, and Piper, the passionate promoter.

On the death of Florens-Louis Heidsieck in 1828, Christian Heidsieck, his nephew, and Henri-Guillaume Piper, a talented man with tremendous business acumen, joined forces. From Hapsburg princes to Chinese emperors, 14 royal and imperial courts granted Piper the distinction of becoming their “authorized supplier.” High society around the world coveted “the Piper by Heidsieck.” In 1835, Christian Heidsieck suddenly died and, in 1838, his wife remarried Henri-Guillaume Piper. And thus the PIPER-HEIDSIECK brand was born.

Extraordinary resilience

Upon the death of Henri-Guillaume in 1870, Jacques-Charles Théodore Kunkelmann, a partner since 1851, took over the reins at PIPER-HEIDSIECK. In 1892, his son, Ferdinand-Théodore, succeeded him. His daughter Yolande married the Marquis Jean de Suarez d’Aulan in 1926. A pioneering aviator, this amazing man came onto the scene and promoted the Maison all around the world from behind the controls of his own aircraft. During the Second World War, this tireless and courageous man of action agreed to hide weapons in his cellars for use by the Champagne Resistance. And the eve of his arrest by the Gestapo, he escaped to North Africa where he became a fighter pilot for the famous Lafayette Escadrille Squadron. He died in combat in 1944.

A plane from the famous Lafayette Escadrille squadron.

A plane from the famous Lafayette Escadrille squadron.

The PIPER-HEIDSIECK Maison was placed under sequestration by the occupying forces. After the liberation of France, the Maison would almost certainly have collapsed had it not been brilliantly relaunched by his wife Yolande, seconded by General d’Alès, whom she would marry in 1945.

A family affair

François d’Aulan, the eldest son of the Marquis Jean de Suarez d’Aulan and Yolande Kunkelmann, took over the business in 1957. He presided over PIPER-HEIDSIECK Champagnes for 33 years. During this time he focused on the development of the company and the preservation of the family heritage. In 1988 he passed the torch to the Hériard Dubreuil family, who consolidated the international development of the Maison. Then in 2011, the Descours family took over the reins. Christopher Descours, grandson of Jean-Louis Descours, a major figure in the National Council of French Employers, who holds the future of this great Maison in his hands.

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