Saturday, 28 May 2011

Henri Giraud Range Tasting - May 2011

Henri Giraud has always been one of those small(ish) champagne producers who I have heard of but never tasted. It has a very small presence in the UK and is currently looking for a UK distributer. Based in the Beautiful Grand Cru village of Ay to the north-east of Epernay, this champagne house has been family-owned and family-run since the beginning of the 20th century. They have always, like their Ay neighbours Bollinger, been great believers in the use of oak barrel ageing in their champagnes. They own around 12 hectares of vineyards and produce between 250,000 and 300,000 bottles per year.

Esprit de Giraud - this entry-level champagne has a rich, honeyed nose with a baked apple and toasty orchard fruit palate. It is both crisp and generous and a good value champagne for those who like a more weighty style. 70% PN 30% CH.

Esprit Blanc de Blanc - 90% stainless steel chardonnay with 10% oak matured chardonnay. This offering has a fragrant nose with acacia flowers, orange peel and a palate of pineapple fruit lined with a fresh acidity and clean finish.

Esprit Rose - 70% Chardonnay, 22% Pinot noir and 8% wood-raised Pinot Noir vinified to be a red wine. An attractive smokey nose packed with strawberry fruit and a touch of rose. The palate is relatively full-bodied with ripe, summer fruit but a crisp acidity really carries the flavour and makes it a great aperitif to serve with canapes.

Hommage Brut - This blend is made purely from Grand Cru fruit and is vinified for 6 months in stainless steels vats and 6 months in oak. It has an evocative nose of freshly baked white bread and a complex palate full of peaches and pears. 70% PN, 30% CH.
Code Noir Brut - The Code Noir is aged for 4 years which opens up a whole new spectrum of aromas on the nose. It has so much going on. Honeyed peaches, white pepper, vanilla and even an interesting mushroom note. The palate doesn't disappoint either; it's very vinious and bears a lot of similarities to a grand cru chablis. There is a grapefruit-like fruit, a pronounced minerality and buttery oak character. There are also some some tannins which makes it a great partner for creamy, chicken dishes and fish. 100% Grand Cru Pinot Noir.

Code Noir Rose - 90% Pinot Noir, 10% Ay grande cru red wine. Though interesting, this rose is not as appealing as the standard Code Noir Brut. It has pretty, smokey nose but is a bit hollow on the palate. There are some fairly dense red fruits which would even stand up to some red meats.

Fût de Chêne 2000 - Fût de Chêne means oak barrel and this champagne is aged in a Fût de Chêne for a year followed by seven years in bottle before it is released. It is made entirely from grand cru fruit from the 'miracle' 2000 vintage. On the nose, it shows lots of earthy tones including leather and truffle, but there is still a lively tangerine note. The palate is so intense that I don't know where to start! There are lots of marmalade, honey and a hint of sweet spice (cinnamon mainly). There is pronounced tannin which carries the flavour and, again, makes it a great food pairing. I would like to try this with fois gras or chicken liver parfait. It also has a low dosage which aids fruit expression and a long, clean finish.

Coteaux Champenois Blanc 2007 - This is a true revelation for me. It's a 100% Grand Cru Chardonnay still white Coteaux Champenois which has been aged in new oak for 11 months after fermentation. It has a razor-like acidity and clearly needs a few years to calm down, but it is so tightly wound and pure that it needs a mention. It bears many similarities to a young grand cru Chablis, there is a noticeably flinty minerality and citrus fruits with a touch of pineapple. All of this is rounded off by a warm, buttery oak character. It would work well with shellfish or flaky white fish.

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