Why Japan Is Obsessed With Champagne Henri Giraud

The Champagne's commercial director, Julien Girard, offers cultural advice on drinking in the moment


Why Japan Is Obsessed With Champagne Henri Giraud
Wine February 7th, 2018

In a bustling city like Tokyo where high-speed bullet trains and brisk-walking, sharp-suited men are the norm, being transported to a place where time stands still can be a welcome reprieve.

“One of our tailored experiences that Japanese clients really enjoy is being able to go on a private tour of the Argonne forest, where we source the oak for our barrels,” says Julien Girard, commercial director of Champagne Henri Giraud for over 15 years.

“The Japanese enjoy nature. The forest becomes a place where, for a moment, time stops.”

Julien Girard, Champagne Henri Giraud’s commercial director

Such is the beauty of Champagne Henri Giraud, a family-owned estate that has captured the heart of Japan. “It’s true that Japanese love the artisanal craft of France. Many also love Henri Giraud because the house places a strong emphasis on family culture, which is similar to the values they hold,” says Girard.

Japan alone takes up 20 per cent of exports by Champagne Henri Giraud – each year, 50,000 bottles are distributed throughout major cities such as Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto.

The estate is presently helmed by 12th generation owner Claude Giraud, a man with a fiery passion for preserving the traditional Argonne oak forest that once breathed life into champagne-making back in the 19th century.

While many houses have since turned to stainless-steel vats to turn grapes into wine, Champagne Henri Giraud keeps the romance of ageing its wines in oak barrels to turn out liquid gold.

Champagne Henri Giraud’s quest for the perfect oak means the wood for its barrels is sourced from specific GPS-tracked plots in Champagne’s Argonne forest. The oak barrels are then fashioned by the experienced hands of Jérome Viard, the only cooper in the Champagne region to hold the official title of merrandier and tonnelier, or stave-maker. Only certain cuvées are aged in these Argonne oak barrels.

Take Champagne Henri Giraud’s latest vintage, the Argonne 2008. Made from a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes, the barrel-aged Grand Cru is a vibrant gold hue with a complexity uncommon of most bubblies.

“When you drink a glass of Argonne 2008, it’s like biting into fresh grapes.”

The packaging is also kept minimal, so nothing distracts from the quality of the champagne. Designed by Japanese architect Shigeru Ban, known for his innovative work with paper, the bottle features a simple gold square bearing the house stamp and a sleek tube casing.

“This collaboration was born because the Japanese are passionate about craft, and we share the same vision: It was very important for Shigeru Ban to collaborate with a champagne house which is very involved in the terroir,” says Girard.

The salinity of Henri Giraud champagnes makes them a beautiful match with Japanese food such as sushi and seafood, but Girard maintains the ideal pairing is great company and conversations to be savoured.

“Henri Giraud champagne are vintages you drink with your best friend or the woman of your life, not just with a simple daily dish.”

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