The latest release of Giraud’s NV Brut Esprit Nature opens in the glass with a lovely bouquet of citrus oil, mandarin, crisp yellow pears, pastry cream and blanched almonds. On the palate, the wine is full-bodied, broad and vinous, with racy acids, fine concentration and a compelling sense of integration and harmony. This is a charming, elegant bottling that’s very hard to resist. It comes warmly recommended. RP/92
A skein of exotic spice unravels through flavors of apple tarte Tatin, ginger pastry cream, graphite and smoke in this expressive Champagne, framed by lithe acidity and a finely detailed mousse. Disgorged January 2018. Drink now through 2022. WS/92
The NV Esprit Nature is a terrific entry-level wine in this range. Creamy, ample and inviting, with lovely textural depth, the Esprit shows all the resonance of Pinot in its generous, inviting personality. Lemon confit, mint, white flowers, orchard fruit and spice all build in this super-expressive, delicious Champagne from Henri Giraud. I tasted the Esprit after all the big guns in this range, and it showed very well just the same. The Esprit is 80% Pinot Noir (from Aÿ and surrounding villages) and 20% Chardonnay, based on 2016 with 50% reserve wines. Readers should note that ‘Nature’ is part of this wine’s name, and not an indication of dosage. Disgorged: May 4, 2018. AG/90
Masses of information (concrete eggs and all) but nothing about the principal year. Very distinctive. Lots of oak influence and richness. Very different from most. Selosse-like: white wine with bubbles. Not aggressive acidity. Lots of fun. Jancis Robinson
Henri Giraud is one of the smallest Champagne houses and is fully family owned. The boutique winery in Aÿ (Marne Valley) is led by CEO Claude Giraud, who combines “science and experience with passion and expertise,” and thus is highly innovative and handcrafts Champagnes in a unique style under the direction of Chef du Cave Sébastien Le Golvet. Many of the cuvées (always with a large percentage of Pinot Noir, except for the newer Blanc de Craie, which is a pure Chardonnay) are fermented and aged on the full lees for six to 12 months in Argonne oak barrels before the aging in bottles that takes two to eight years. The alternative to oak? Terracotta amphorae shaped like eggs! Since November 2016, there is no stainless steel vat in the “New Generation Cellar” in Aÿ. Oak and terracotta vats not only allow the wines to breathe, but their small sizes also “boost the interaction between the wine and its entire sediment that contains antioxidants and aromatic precursors,” Claude Giraud explained during the opening of the new cellar one and a half years ago.
As a result of the long aging of the vins clairs on the full lees and the partly excessive use of new oak, the cuvées from Henri Giraud have a very particular style whose oak influence is prominent rather than the expression of fruit and terroir. Here, the Argonne Forest seems to be the terroir, and it’s up to you if you like the full-bodied, intense, structured, rather vinous style or not. Although I have never tasted really matured wines after disgorgement, I suppose the best will age very, very well and will always be great wines with food. Also, compared to the wines I tasted some years ago, the oak influence has been reduced a bit. The wines have become purer, finer and fresher, at least that’s my impression without having tasted the styles side by side.