“Henri Giraud produces luxury Champagnes of unique quality and style” - Robert Parker
We are delighted to offer the very latest releases from Champagne Henri Giraud, the boutique family maison in Aÿ that has been described by Robert Parker as “the finest Champagne house virtually no one has ever heard of”
Argonne 2008 Brut, Aÿ Grand Cru
The Argonne – named for the forest where the house sources the oak for its bespoke barrels – is the flagship wine of Champagne Henri Giraud. Robert Parker has said that it “resembles the top cuvées from Krug [with] more freshness” – indeed the rich, ripe quality of this champagne is married with stunning clarity and finesse.
2008 is an extremely fine wine, being made in this vintage of 90% Pinot Noir with 10% of Chardonnay from a superb plot of 50 year old vines on Aÿ Grand Cru chalk soils situated in glorious elevation above the winery. Harvesting of these vines is done entirely by hand, before fermentation and ageing in 228 litre barrels of Argonne oak specially selected for its terroir. The toasting of the barrels is personally overseen by the Henri Giraud chef de cave, Sebastien Le Golvet, at the dedicated Henri Giraud cooperage. 30% of the barrels are new, lending a balancing depth and density to the gorgeous richness of the Pinot Noir fruit. Argonne rests in bottle for 9 years before its release with 7.5g of dosage, creating a sumptuous yet very elegant, precisely defined champagne of stunning mineral purity and great ageing potential.
Gauthier Vecten, Export Director of Champagne Henri Giraud commented: “The Argonne cuvée is the epitome of our expertise and research, created only in exceptional vintages: it is truly our tête de cuvée. The 2008 is 90% Pinot Noir Aÿ Grand Cru from exceptional soil and extremely limited yields: only 4000 bottles were produced.”
Fût de Chêne MV10 Brut, Aÿ Grand Cru
This luxury “multi-vintage” cuvée, based on the 2010 vintage but blended with a number of reserve wines, is barrel-fermented 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay from 45 year old vines.
Described by Jancis Robinson in a previous vintage as “A sort of Montrachet of Champagne!” this is a distinctive, sumptuous wine with spicy oak, beautifully pure fruit and stunning freshness and finesse. Its richness, complexity and length are a great reflection of the terroir in Aÿ.
As with the other top Henri Giraud cuvées, the creation of this champagne is very hands-on, with grapes harvested by hand, and élevage taking place for 12 months in Argonne oak barrels. Patience is the watchword, with this champagne spending a further 4 years in bottle on fine lees before being released with a dosage of 7.5 g/l.
Gauthier Vecten commented: “For our barrels, we are the only producer in the world to do the work of differentiating terroirs within the same forest. This is because the element that has the most impact on wine is the precise origin of the oak. It is an enormous investment of time, money and painstaking research to understand the oaks and to match individual barrels with individual vineyard microclimates. We see the results of this investment in the quality of our champagnes.”
The origins of Champagne Henri Giraud date back to 1625 when the Hémart family – contemporaries of Henri IV and his descendants – settled permanently in the town of Aÿ. In the early 1900s, Léon Giraud, Cavalryman in the Battle of the Marne, married Lady Hémart and set upon rebuilding the beautiful family vineyards, which had been devastated by phylloxera. Today, Claude Giraud, the 12th generation of the Giraud-Hémart family, presides over this well-regarded “Maison de Champagne”.
Henri Giraud is an exciting, dynamic house where tradition and innovation go hand in hand. In their constant quest to produce superb champagnes that reflect the quality of their grapes and their excellent terroir, the house works ceaselessly to fine-tune the blends and improve the methods used to raise the champagnes. Recently the house has announced that it has expunged stainless steel from its cellars: from the 2016 vintage, all its champagnes – even the most humble – will be made with the use of Argonne oak barrels. This is an admirable undertaking reflecting their utter commitment to the quality and character of their champagnes.
Barrel ageing is a practice that has fallen into disuse in Champagne since 1950, but which Henri Giraud are working to revive, but which Henri Giraud are working to revive, following extensive research which resulted in the conviction that “fine wines need small containers”.
The house is also fanatical about sustainability and history, investing tens of thousands of euros per year into the mapping and replanting of the Argonne
Forest from which the oak for their barrels is harvested. Every stave of every barrel is traceable to the spot in the forest from which it came.
The Henri Giraud tonnellerie is the last remaining cooperage in Champagne, housed in a large, humble barn overlooking the roofs of the pretty village of Cauroy Les Hermonvilles. The winemaker Sebastien Le Golvet selects the new oak staves that will suit each wine best according to vintage. The staves are dried outside for 30-36 months depending on the source of the wood; like vines, the best trees come from the middle of the slope in the forest where they grow with a very fine grain. After harvest, Sebastien visits again to check the toast of each barrel and adjust according to the quality of the champagnes it will contain.
Aÿ grand Cru is exceptional terroir, and in their passionate attention to detail with their barrels, Henri Giraud feel they are doing justice to the quality of the land, and what is more, linking the terroir of the forest to the terroir of Aÿ.
Initially a difficult, damp year with widespread mildew, but drier conditions in August and a fine, warm September produced some beautifully ripe fruit with fresh acids. Yields were slightly lower than recent years, particularly in Pinot Noir – meaning there is not much Argonne to go round!
2010 began as a tricky year of dry conditions slowing grape development, with torrential rain in August causing disease pressure. The return of dry conditions in September was a saving grace, and Henri Giraud’s careful sorting in the vineyard and winery gave them good quality fruit.