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Champagne Charlie

In honor of International Champagne Day, here’s a story about one of the men who made the beverage popular in the United States. Charles Heidsieck founded his Champagne house, by the same name, in 1851 and promoted his Champagne extensively in the United States. He was dubbed “Champagne Charlie” by the American press. Champagne Charlie was an energetic, smooth-talking entrepreneur—by 1861 he had sold over 300,000 bottles in the U.S., and his Champagne had become a wild success. From an avid winemaking family, Charles Heidsieck was related to the founders of the two other Champagne houses that eventually came to be known as Piper-Heidsieck and Heidsieck & Co. Monopole. During the U.S. Civil War, Charlie was arrested and accused of being a Confederate spy on his travels through New Orleans. He was finally released from prison after President Lincoln received a letter from Napoleon III, then the Emperor of France, on his behalf. Returning to France penniless and ill, Charlie still managed to save his Champagne business when he was repaid a debt using land deeds. The repayment included one third of a small village in the U.S.  “Colorado Territory.” Shortly thereafter, silver was discovered in that same then little-known village of Denver, saving Charlie’s Champagne empire.

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