The first word that comes to mind in tasting Giraud’s 2002 Brut Argonne – which, as its name suggests, was initially raised in new Argonne oak barrels – is “sumptuous.” I cannot recall having previously tasted such an envelopingly and almost thickly rich Champagne. The selection of Ay Pinot Noir chosen here is more than capable of subsuming any overt influence that new oak might otherwise have bestowed on it. Lightly baked apple, quince, and marzipan inform the nose and silken, expansive, plush palate, accompanied by subtly resinous and smoky black tea. The combination of breadth, textural allure, and fine yet intensely active mousse is spine-tinglingly impressive, striking its balance between vinosity and effervescence at a remarkable high energy level. Hints of salt and iodine add interest, local color, and saliva-inducement to a powerful finishing wave of fruit and nut essences. I suspect one will be rewarded for following this 8-10 years down the pike; though I confess to lack of directly relevant experience.