Highlights below are of a recent eight course, eight wine/champagne dinner with Claude Giraud and several others at Maison Henri Giraud, in the town of Aÿ in the Champagne region of France.
Chef Philippe Jamesse prepared this dinner menu for Maison Henri Giraud, and the cooking was executed by Ebby Reyhani.
Jamesse was formerly head sommelier at Les Crayères Restaurant and is renowned for his wine/champagne pairings.
Reyhani, British of Iranian descent, has spent two decades in France and in Southeast Asia leading wine tastings. When learning to cook and visiting restaurants, he always inspected wine lists before he perused menus to consider which foods might pair best with wines.
‘That helped with my understanding in using a dish to elevate the experience of a particular wine.’
- Mussells in wine with saffron (moule charnue façon marinière, safran).
2. White pudding cooked in smoked black tea, caramelized apple and Danish smoked salt (boudin blanc cuit dans un thé noir fumé, pomme caramélisée, sel fumé à la Danoise).
3. Carrot cooked in a dashi boullion, marmalade of yuzu citrus fruit and salt from the Guérande marshes of Brittany (carotte cuite dans un dashi, marmelade de yuzu, sel de Guérande).
4. Fennel cooked in oyster juice and chalk broth from Aÿ, with fresh oysters and star anise (fenouil cuit dans un jus d’huitre et de bouillon de craie d’Aÿ, huître fraîche, badiane).
5. Crunchy pork leg with foie gras sauce (crustillant de pied de porc, sauce foie gras).
6. Quail with candied lemon and ginger, hazelnut oil and hazelnut chips (caille, citron et gingembre confits, huile de noisette, éclats de noisettes).
7. Strawberries with five Chinese and basil spices and rose water (fraises aux 5 épices chinoises et basilic, eau de rose).
8. Emmanuel Briet’s chocolate with Pinot Noir jelly from Aÿ (le chocolate d’Emmanuel Briet à la gelée de Pinot Noir d’Ay).
Argonne Rosé – 2014. This was an opener before the meal. Only one barrel produced. Claude Giraud described this as having ‘spice, graphite, minerals and violets. The accent is on spice. It’s a big wine from big terroir.’
After minutes in the glass, aromas of fruit marched out: peaches, nectarines. Next, graphite. Then, caramel and butterscotch and finally aromas of roses and dried apricots. Quite the spectral nightingale here—a rainbow of flavors.
Henri Giraud – MV 13. This Grand Cru—mostly Pinot Noir—is aged in oak from the Argonne forest located 100 kilometers east. Reyhani highlighted how the saffron augments minerality when paired with mussels.
Henri Giraud – Esprit Nature. Lemony nose and paired splendidly with the boudin blanc.
Henri Giraud – Hommage. This 70/30 Pinot Noir/Chardonnay blend is oaked for six months and highlighted the ‘carrot’ dish which looked simple, but included a rainbow of subtle flavors.
Henri Giraud – Blanc de Craie. This 100% Chardonnay paired with the fennel dish. As Claude noted, it includes tastes of limestone and salinity and is unlike a typical Chardonnay. I loved the fresh, tropical fruits and its energy. The oyster sauce paired well with the hint of saltiness in the wine. The dish matched oysters with vegetables, while the wine/food combination matched salt and seafood. An intelligently thought out, stellar pairing.
Henri Giraud – MV Rosé. Small production of this orange and peach colored wine. Soft shoulders and confident body. The oak adds a hint of bacon and this paired with the crunchy pork with foie gras sauce. With that dish came a full on explosion of hearty meats and salty complexity. In the mouth—vanilla, orange rind, cumin and aniseed.
Henri Giraud – Code Noir. This 100% Pinot Noir Grand Cru is small production and oaked. Spearmint and lemon drop aromas with a biscuit kick. A talented match with the quail.
Henri Giraud – Dame-Jane. Aged in amphora to take advantage of the natural convection of lees, this rosé matched the strawberries and the five spices, which included cinnamon and anise.
Henri Giraud – Rafafia Solera S90-13. This red wine, made in Champagne, matched the small slabs of chocolate made with Pinot Noir juice.
Eight of us from France, China, The U.K. and the U.S. enjoyed this 8/8 dinner together. This was one of the best meals I’ve ever had—largely because it was intelligently paired and lacked bulk or fat. Although we ate in France, there were no baguettes in sight—purposely.
I’ll soon write another article about the way that Henri Giraud uses oak from the Argonne forest to accentuate the taste of their champagnes.
Thanks for tuning in!