Champagne Henri Giraud is the preferred champagne of some of the finest restaurants in Macau and Hong Kong. Founded by Françis Hémart at the beginning of the 17th century when the family settled in the village of Aÿ in the Champagne region of France, they began to really prosper in the 80s, these days becoming the sought after by those in the know. We had a chance to meet Stéphane Barlerin, the Sales Director of Champagne Henri Giraud visiting Macau for an exclusive master-class and champagne dinner where she highlights why Champagne Henri Giraud’s champagnes are so high quality and sought after.
How many bottles of Champagne Henri Giraud does the house produce in a year? And how many end up traveling to Asia?
Between 250–300 thousand bottles every year. With Japan being the biggest market, Asia is growing very quickly covering about 40% of our market. Champagne Henri Giraud is not a commercial brand, you can find it in fine dining restaurants with top sommeliers or in private cellars. The quality of the champagne is exceptional and you will never see it in a newspaper and other similar forms of advertisement as we don’t market it that way. We rely purely on the quality of our product to speak for itself.
How did Henri Giraud house come into being and what makes it so special?
Henri Giraud’s history is rooted in Aÿ, a very unique area of the Champagne region, known for some of the best Pinot Noir. Aÿ is an exceptional terroir, the soil is very special which gives the unique characteristics to the wine, together with the local oak that we use in the production.
Robert Parker wine advocates has described Henri Giraud champagne as “the finest Champagne house virtually no one has ever heard of” – with such fantastic wine, how is that possible?
It is possible because we kept the production scale very small – Henri Giraud House is not a commercial brand, doesn’t belong to a big group and completely independent- it’s a family owned business, one of the smallest champagne houses. The brand however is well known among sommeliers and epicures.
The Giraud family settled in Aÿ in the 17th century – would that make it one of the oldest families to run a Champagne house in the region?
The origins of Champagne Henri Giraud go back to 1625 so it’s been a long time, but the brand really become famous when Claude Giraud took the reins from his father Henri in the beginning of the 80s. He started to see the importance of going back to the roots of champagne and re-introduce the use of wooden barrels, particularly from the Argonne forest. 70km from Champagne, Argonne forest is situated between France and Belgium and until 1950 there were about 150 barrel makers in the region but they all have closed with time. And Claude decided to really understand the forest and the oak it gives, that then results in the production of the finest champagne. It’s rather phenomenal, as to cut the trees for the oak barrels it takes 3oo hundred years to grow them, unlike some other regions in France, where it might take only 100 years. Argonne forest oak tannin is delicate and silky, adopting very well with the Aÿ wine we are producing.
What is the “Vin Nature” revolution?
A lot of producers say ‘we are organic’ or ‘we are biodynamic’ and with Champagne Henri Giraud we want to go further than that. There is a code on the bottle that you can scan and read the molecular analysis and see there are no pesticides in the wine, so it’s very transparent. We’ve started this two and a half years ago and the response has been very positive. Pesticides are not only not good for nature but also destroy the wine and affect the taste.
In the soil you have the roots. The minerals and complexity of the wine come from the soil, and the roots need to absorb the bacteria, then the bacteria absorbs the minerals. If you spray chemicals, you destroy the bacteria, and the roots cannot absorb the minerals. It’s true for grapes as much as it’s true for apples and it is important to us to show that we don’t use any pesticides. “Organic”, you know, depends on which country it come from–South America, America, Europe all have different levels and regulations.
The Fût de Chêne bottle is very special, tell us the story behind it?
Claude Geraud designed this bottle more than 30 years ago because he liked the shape and it’s well adapted to age the wine inside. There is no label so we engrave directly on the bottle. We use a lot of gold working with goldsmiths because we like the artisan craft where each bottle is done by hand and it’s really unique.
Of all the wines of the house which are your favourite?
All of them because they are all so different. I love Argonne, which is one of the best Pinot Noir on the market. But my choice depends on the time of day and also my mood. I also love Esprit Nature because it’s very fresh but very deep and complex at the same time.
How does one choose the right champagne for any occasion? Are there any rules you stick to when selecting?
It depends on the moment of the day. Of course in the afternoon it will probably be more the Esprit Nature, before the aperitif, Blanc de Craire and to accompany a meal, Code Noir. When we talk about champagne we also need to consider that, in general, some champagnes go very well at 2:00am in a nightclub with lots of big bubbles and high sugar content. But Henri Giraud champagne is to enjoy at different times, such as an aperitif or for dining.
What is your favorite food pairing with a glass of champagne?
Rosé champagne is the best paring for Chinese food because it’s easy to pair with meat and fish, spicy or not spicy. Chinese dishes are often shared, served on the table at the same time, so Rosé is a good choice too.
You can enjoy Henri Giraud champagne in fine dining restaurants of City of Dreams, Studio City Macau or Altira Macau, brought to you by Sarment.