Most champagnes are mega brands owned by corporations. Although Champagne Henriot is not small, it is one of the few remaining family-owned independent champagne houses. Founded in 1808, it has been with the same family for eight generations since its inception.
In addition to its 30 hectares of vineyards, Champagne Henriot has long-term relationships with some 80 winegrowers that it manages and sources grapes from. The grapes are almost evenly split between Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
Vintage champagne is only produced in the best years, and it is the interpretation of the vintage by the houses. So it is important to judge champagne houses by their non-vintage champagne, which represents the majority of their production.
During his recent visit to Hong Kong, Champagne Henriot CEO Guillaume Cocude used the word “luminous” to describe the house style of Henriot – delicate, precise and fresh. He is particularly proud of the Blanc de Blancs NV, where more than two-thirds of the Chardonnay comes from Premier and Grand Cru sites. The champagne is made of 40 per cent reserve wine and is aged for at least 4–5 years on lees. It is the best expression of the house style and is often served at Michelin-starred restaurants.
Another key factor that sets apart a fine champagne house from the pack is consistency. Cocude attributes Henriot’s consistent style to the combination of its exceptional vineyard sites and talented winemaker, Laurent Fresnet. Fresnet was named Sparkling Winemaker of the Year by the International Wine Challenge in 2015 and 2016, but he is even more proud to have won the Len Evans Trophy, awarded for consistency over five years, in 2018.
I like the elegant style of Henriot. The Blanc de Blancs NV has a fine acidity with multilayered aromas. It is a food-friendly wine and went well with a dim sum trio we had at a recent lunch.
The Millésime 2008, made with 50 per cent Chardonnay and 50 per cent Pinot Noir from Premier and Grand Cru sites and aged eight years on lees, was made in celebration of the 200th anniversary of Henriot. It is complex yet fresh and light.
Another impressive Henriot champange is the Cuvée Hemera 2005, again made with equal percentages of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, only from Grand Crus sites and aged 12 years on lees. Released in 2018, the wine bursts with floral and fresh fruit notes that will age gracefully for years to come. It is considered one of the best champagnes of 2018 by Decanter.
Henriot keeps a library of back-vintage wines that they will happily disgorge by order for collectors, making ideal presents to celebrate special occasions. Check with their local importer in Hong Kong, Kerry Wines.
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