The influence of oak has had a long history with wine and Champagne which is originally thought to have been introduced through their neighbour Burgundy and some indicate Alsace as well. In fact prior to the modern stainless steel tanks and enamel lined vats, oak was the primary method of fermenting and storing the initial wines.
This month, we highlight two producers that we believe express oak's influence with aplomb. The first house that you can't look past when talking about Oak is - Henri Giraud.
Claude Giraud is renowned for his work with Oak, especially the Argonne forest near Chalons-en-Champagne and is the first winery in Champagne to eliminate the use of stainless steel, opting for oak and the historic Amphora (Clay vessels) for ageing, storing and fermenting his cuvée's.
The wine we feature is the Hommage which was made to pay respect to the founder of the house François Hemnart (1625 - 1705). It is aged for 6 months in Argonne oak and then sits in the cellars on it's lees for 3 years. It is a blend of 70 Pinot and 30 chardonnay, which coincidentally is the split across their 9 hectares of vineyards.
Next up is a producer that we hold close to our hearts and minds and has made huge efforts and investment in their barrel room, with multiple types of oak, many sizes and custom formats. We present Billecart-Salmon and their 'Sous Bois' meaning 'undergrowth' or 'forest floor' which is vinified and aged entirely in oak barrels, aged 6-7 years on lees and represents the three varieties from their respective areas in champagne. Chardonnay from the Côte des Blancs, Pinot noir from Montagne de Reims and Meunier from the right bank of the Marne valley.
Partial malo keeps this wine fresh yet round and a measured dosage around 7 g/l.
What a way to see champagne influenced by oak. We hope you enjoy the wines this month. Feel free to send in your comments and thoughts.
Kyri, Kyla, Isabella and the Emperor Team.