Oaking For The Future


In these times of short-sighted planning, tweet-like attention-spans and the sound-bite mentality comes a story of great far-sightedness. Champagne house Henri Giraud is planting a new section of the Champagne region’s Forest of Argonne specifically for oak barrels.

In December, Giraud will plant 7,700 trees on seven hectares of land in the centre of the forest, which lies south-east of Ay (Henri Giraud’s home town). The trees will take 180 years to mature. Giraud is already the only Champagne house to exclusively use barrels made from Argonne oak, and its new deluxe wine, to be released in June, is named Cuvee Argonne.

The forest was traditionally used as the main source for Champagne barrels but the two world wars put paid to that. As in Alsace’s Vosges forest, the trees were so full of shrapnel that sawing the logs was hazardous. Giraud began its project of rejuvenating Argonne in 1990 in tandem with France’s National Forest Office. Did anyone mention the word terroir?

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