Henri Giraud is one of the most exciting and pioneering Champagne houses today. Based in Äy, the property’s story begins in the early 17th century, when the Hémart family settled in the region. The vineyards were destroyed by phylloxera, but re-established by Léon Giraud – who married into the family at the beginning of the 20th century, and grafted new cuttings onto American rootstocks. The property has stayed in the family ever since.
While the family has always owned vines, it was only under current owner and 12th generation family member Claude Giraud that the estate started producing wine.
Henri Giraud has 35 parcels of vines, all of which are Grand Cru – mainly Pinot Noir with a little Chardonnay. Vineyard work is all lutte raisonnée and the focus is firmly on the terroir.
Sébastien Le Golvet – Claude Giraud’s son-in-law – is in charge in the cellar. All the base wines are fermented in oak, sourced locally from the Argonne forest – something they feel is key to the wines’ sense of place. The team also uses concrete and terracotta for fermentation, with stainless steel tanks banished from the winery in 2016. Beyond this, the winemaking is as hands-off as possible, with minimal intervention and sulphur additions.
The top cuvée is Argonne – named after the oak forest that defines their wines. As well as a range of Champagnes, the house also makes some amazing examples of Ratafia Champenois – must fortified with grape brandy, making a mistelle, which is then aged in cask.
Total production is low, at around 250,000 bottles a year, which goes someway to explaining why the house flies under the radar. Indeed, Robert Parker described Henri Giraud as “the greatest Champagne you’ve never heard of”.