Henriot’s new star

The Henriot family settled in the Champagne region in 1640, setting up business as both textile and wine brokers. In 1808 Apolline Henriot established a Champagne house, which 212 years later is still in family hands.

Henriot became, briefly, part of the giant Louis Vuitton-Möet-Hennesy (LVMH) group in 1985, but Joseph Henriot bought the family house back in 1994 and remained in control until his death in 2015. His heirs now run a very substantial business, owning not only the Champagne house of Henriot, but Bouchard Père & Fils and William Fèvre in Burgundy, and Beaux Frères in the Wilamette Valley, Oregon.

This tasting was presented by recently appointed cellarmaster, Alice Tétienne, who says Henriot was already close to her heart, being a staple of both her, and her parent’s, own cellars, and Gilles de Larouzière, President of Champagne Henriot and Joseph Henriot’s nephew.

“The world economy is facing difficulties, as is Champagne,” said Gilles. “We need a compass, and for me and my family that compass is maintaining quality and ambition.” Alice, recently awarded cellarmaster of the year in Champagne, is charged with going deeper into the terroir of Henriot’s vineyards. She admits she has “Champagne in her blood,” being born, raised and always working in Champagne. Her first love is the vineyard, and she explains that the house today pays much more attention in the vineyard, including canopy management, “and all the points of finesse that are more and more important as climate changes.” Henriot owns 20% of its own estate vineyard, buying 80% from contracted growers. “That gives us real diversity of terroir,” says Alice, “and most are family growers we have worked with for generations.”

Though the Brut Souverain is Henriot’s biggest-selling flagship wine, the house’s connection to Chardonnay goes back to the days of Apolline who loved the variety, and most importantly, to 1880, when marriage brought with it prime Chardonnay vineyards in the Côte de Blancs.

Hemera

The deluxe cuvée Hemera replaces the Enchanteleurs, a wine Gilles described as ‘autumnal’ with aged characters to the fore. But the house felt it was out of kilter with the rest of the range and needed more freshness, so it was changed in terms of harvest dates, vineyard selection and blending. The change was so successful that they decided to rename the cuvée and effectively launch it as a new wine: Hemera, named after the Greek godess of light.

This wine will be bottled only in the best vintage years, “when the level of the expression of the terroir is not just great; it is outstanding,” says Gilles. It comes from three Grand Cru Pinot Noir vineyards of the Montagne de Reims, and three Grand Cru Chardonnay vineyards of the Côte de Blancs, a 50/50 blend.

The first Hemera was 2005, but the house feels 2006 has brought all the components together in great harmony. “It was not an easy vintage being dry and warm, with a massive rainfall in August,” says Alice, but though fearing a disaster, “the wines of 2006 have turned out very well for the house.”

The Wines

As well as the latest release of Hemera, I would taste the non-vintage Blanc de Blancs, based on the 2014 vintage, but with 40% reserve wines in the blend.

(2020) The wine is based on the 2014 vintage (60%) with reserves from 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 making up the other 40%, and aged five years on the lees, this bottle disgorged in October 2018. Very delicate, ethereal nose, fresh-sliced apple and a touch of something jasmine-like and floral, then some biscuity autolytic notes come through. In the mouth it is ripe and quite sweet. The dosage was not revealed for this wine, but it has some residual sweetness as well as fruit ripeness I think, but all beautifully refined and poised, fresh and with a touch of saline into the finish.
(2020) Composed of equal parts Chardonnay (from Chouilly, Avize and Mesnil-sur-Oger) and Pinot Noir (from Mailly, Verzy and Vezernay) only the second vintage of Hemera spent 12 years on the lees, and has a modest dosage. What a beautiful golden glow to this 14-year-old Champagne. The aromas are somehow golden and glowing too, a burnished hazelnut and brioche richness from its 12 years on the lees, golden toffee moving into a Seville orange and truffle. But against the depth and richness, there is a luminous edge to this; a keen mineral and salt undertow of freshness. On the palate the mousse is fine and creamy, and that sense of saline, mineral, terroir intensity is striking. It is a Champagne with autolytic nutty characters and that pure core of citrus running through it, but that edgey, mouth-watering ozone-fresh finish in many ways defines this wine.

2 comments

  1. I have been waiting for this to be written up and what a lovely piece it turned out to be.Makes me want to get both bottlings to add to my experience of this house, which has till now flown a little under the radar.

    1. Many thanks Ray, so glad you enjoyed my report. I remember buying Henriot’s Brut in Oddbins many, many years ago, but you are right that they did slip off the radar a little for me too. I think there have been quite significant changes in vineyards, winery and philosophy, which are maybe now bearing fruit. I certainly enjoyed both of these wines very much as you can see.

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