OF ALL THE MAJOR PRODUCERS in France’s Champagne region, only a few are family-owned. One of the few is Maison & Domaines Henriot, founded in 1808 and today, seven generations later, still making outstanding Champagne. As a privately owned Champagne house, Henriot chooses to keep its production low, to just over 1 million bottles a year, while most larger houses in the region turn out many millions annually.
Being privately owned also allows it to emphasize its own distinct style, one aspect of which is to stress the purest expression of Chardonnay. And many of the Chardonnay grapes that become Henriot Champagne come from top-rated Grand and Premier Cru vineyards. As Laurent Fresnet, Henriot’s cellar master, says, “What makes our Champagne special is that its grapes are sourced from beautiful terroirs. And thanks to our independent status as a family-owned house, I can dedicate the time and care it requires to craft … the unique style of our Champagnes.”
In Henriot’s Brut Rosé ($70) in which Fresnet uses 35 percent reserve wine, he looks for freshness and fruitiness. And indeed, it is fresh and fruity as well as bright and balanced. A pretty pink shade, it offers a mouth-filling sensation and a medium-long aftertaste.
Brut Souverain ($45), composed of 50 percent Chardonnay, 45 percent Pinot Noir and the rest Meunier, is pale yellow, quite dry, with a sturdy body and a fresh, lively aroma.
Made of 100 percent Chardonnay and presenting an explosion of delicate bubbles, Blanc de Blancs ($60) is a clean, ripe, floral wine with a delicious finish.
The creamy, rich, Brut Millésime 2006 ($62.50) combines equal parts of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
Cuve 38 ($599) is a special wine with only 1,000 bottles produced each year, all in magnums and made only of Chardonnay from Côte des Blanc Grand Cru vineyards. Beginning in 1990, the finest part of each Chardonnay harvest has been kept in a solera system. In the current bottling, the oldest part of the blend is from 1990, the youngest from 2008. Cuve 38 is truly spectacular.
In short, every one of Henriot’s Champagnes lives up to the house’s 210-year-old reputation.
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