Henriot's Chef de Cave on their New Prestige Cuvée!
Joining Henriot in 2006 - Henriot’s Chef de Cave, Laurent Fresnet has grown the profile of this classic Reims house to be one of the world’s foremost Champagnes of quality and value. Second City Soil had a chance to chat with Laurent on Henriot’s exciting new Prestige Cuvée - the 2005 Cuvée Hemera - as Laurent visits Chicago!
Second City Soil: You have been Henriot’s cellar master for 13 years. How has the house style evolved under your direction? What was important to preserve in the “Henriot DNA”?
Laurent Fresnet, Champagne Henriot Chef de Cave: When I joined in 2006, Joseph Henriot asked me to evolve our champagnes to refine our style, while getting closer to the original style of the house, fresh with minerality.. Since then, I’ve tried to push the precision and the finesse of each champagne to achieve a better consistency between each other, creating a stronger bond.
Our style was more autumnal before – more generous and ample– and we have evolved towards spring with more freshness. At the time I joined, the Prestige Cuvée, Cuvée des Enchanteleurs, did not really resemble the rest of the line – it was vinous with oxidative notes because the grapes were picked late in the harvest. It was the last piece of the evolution of the style of the house.
SCS: Henriot has just released Cuvée Hemera 2005, the first prestige cuvée since becoming cellar master. What was your vision with this wine? Do you believe you achieved the wine you had hoped for? What was key to the amount of time in the cellar aging?
Laurent: 2005 was an interesting vintage with a rough winter, followed by a mild spring and a month of dry, cool days and sunny weather during harvest. It created the perfect conditions to make wines of truly great quality. I know it can be seen as an audacious choice, since not every house declared a vintage that year, but I had very good wines to work with - balanced with good ripeness but still with the freshness I was looking for to evolve the cuvée. Grapes had been picked earlier than for Les Enchanteleurs, so it was obvious for me that it was the vintage to evolve our Prestige Cuvée.
Hemera is what I had envisioned, and it was a good evolution, but I feel like with 2006, I even pushed the freshness & minerality further–but we will have to wait for another few years! Cuvée Hemera definitely requires an extended period of time (12 years) to fully express the potential of the Grand Crus Terroirs from Côte Des Blancs and Montagne de Reims.
SCS: Many sommeliers, myself included, love Enchanteleurs - how is this Cuvée different, special?
Laurent: Interestingly, we did not change much. The grapes come from the same places, either from our vineyards or from growers whom we have very strong and long relationships- the Chardonnays from Chouilly, Avize and Mesnil-sur-Oger and the Pinots Noir from the north of the Montagne de Reims, from Mailly Champagne, Verzy and Verzenay. – What we did change was key: the date of picking. We picked the grapes earlier in order to preserve acidity and freshness and bring in more minerality. As a result, Cuvée Hemera has more aging potential.
If you liked Cuvée des Enchanteleurs, you will love Cuvée Hemera! It embodies the same values, but with more freshness, elegance and aging potential. Les Enchanteleurs belonged to a time when one would smoke the cigar and sip champagne at the dinner table. It is still available, but the last vintage is 2000. I also think that if they go again through our NV line and then taste Hemera, they will appreciate that it is more consistent.
I also believe that, nowadays, champagne aficionados are looking for more freshness and airiness, so it should be of higher appeal for the clientele.
Champagne Henriot’s 2005 Cuvée Hemera, named after the Greek goddess of the daytime, is a blend of 50% Chardonnay and 50% Pinot Noir with a suggested retail price of $199