Wednesday Wines – Episode 103 – Henri Giraud M17

Episode 103 – Henri Giraud, MV17

30th March 2022

I am far from an expert on the wines of Henri Giraud; however, I greedily devoured a bottle last year at a flashy restaurant and found it delicious, foodie, memorable and rather unusual, too. It stuck in my brain. It is rare for a bottle of Champagne to move me, so when I arrived at a wine tasting earlier this year, I made a beeline to the New Generation Wines stand – NewGen is the UK distributor for Henri Giraud.  There, I was thrilled to taste the MV Henri Giraud Blanc de Craie (£49.95, www.masterofmalt.com; £57.95, www.thewhiskyexchange.com; £70.00, www.selfridges.com; £68.00, www.harveynichols.com) a 100% Chardonnay vinified in 3-5-year-old oak barrels with a 70% reserve wine, also aged in barrels.  This is an electrical storm of a Chardonnay with more chalkiness, as its name suggests, than you could possibly imagine.  There is lime juice freshness and mojito tang here, and it is all underpinned by a rather luscious oak platform.  It was a very exciting experience.  Also on tasting was Blanc de Craie’s mirror image creation – MV Henri Giraud Hommage au Pinot Noir (£570.00, per 12 bottles in bond, www.farrvintners.com; £67.95, www.thewhiskyexchange.com;  £85.00, www.selfridges.com;   £79.00, www.harveynichols.com).  This wine is a 100% Pinot Noir that goes through an extraordinary ‘manufacturing process’ in the winery – it is apparently ‘raised during 54 months in total calm’.  In reality, this means 12 months on lees, without transfer, in small oak barrels, followed by six months on fine lees to get ‘ripe’ at ground temperature.  Giraud describes this process as ‘mise retardée’.  Thereafter it goes through 36 months of ageing.  The result is a rich, ripe, louche wine with theatrical dimensions and a heroic finish.  In short, it is great fun.

If you taste these two wines and feel as lascivious as I did, then it is time for you to seek out my featured wine – Henri Giraud, MV17, Aÿ Grand Cru Brut, Champagne, France (£1290.00, per 12 bottles in bond, www.farrvintners.com; £645.00, per 6 bottles in bond, www.uk.cruworldwine.com; £112.50 (for MV16), www.fourwallswine.com; £149.00, www.huntsworthwine.co.uk; £139.95 (for MV16) www.masterofmalt.com; £140.00, (for MV16) www.thewhiskyexchange.com; £185.00, (for MV16) www.selfridges.com).  As you will see from the list of merchants above, only Farr Vintners has stock of MultiVintage17, while all of the other merchants are still selling its predecessor, MV16.  Of course, one expects them to list MV17 in due course.  Made from 100% Grand Cru Aÿ fruit – 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay – with 66% coming from the 2017 vintage.  The balance is taken from a perpetual reserve that dates back to 1990.  It sees a huge amount of oak, and this forest of staves forms the backdrop to this extraordinary performance.  Deep gold in colour, there is a staggeringly full nose of brioche and panettone over an orange zest palate, and toasted almond notes come at you from all angles. The finish is thrillingly long with amazingly bold oak-smoke details. 

There is an air of luxury here that verges on the gastronomic as opposed to the vinous, and I swear I can detect notes of foie gras and roast chicken jus!  I left a small amount of wine in the bottle with a stopper and tasted it a week later – it was incredible.  Still sparkling, densely perfumed, hugely impactful and massively rich.  If you love the wines of Salon, Selosse, Krug, Egly and other mighty Houses, then you will adore the intense fanfare of flavours that accompanies a bottle of Henri Giraud Champagne. 

For my money, the three wines I have featured today are all worthy of serious inspection. They are the creations of a strong-willed maestro coupled with fruit from the most famous Pinot Noir village in the region, not forgetting a couple of forests.  19/20 (Drink now – 2030)