Manoir Henri Giraud is a luxe, country inn and wellness spa located in Aÿ, 17 miles south of Reims, the capital of the Champagne region (and a 45-minute TGV train ride from Paris) and two-and-a-half miles outside Epernay, the capital of the Champagne industry. Claude Giraud, 12th generation of a local vine-tending family that dates to 1625 in Aÿ (one of only 17 Grands Crus wine villages in Champagne) is the owner of Champagne Henri Giraud, which was one of the first in the region to adopt sustainable and natural agricultural practices. After retiring as winemaker, he decided to extend healthy and natural wellness experiences to his winery guests and created the intimate inn and spa, accordingly. He enlisted his good friend, the eminent architect Gerard Batalla, and reimagined an adjacent three-story, stone-fronted, traditional 19th century manor house into the five-suite, art-filled Manoir Henri Giraud, which opened in June 2020.
After retiring as winemaker, Giraud decided to extend healthy and natural wellness experiences to his winery guests and created the intimate inn and spa.
A Nod to Nature
To incorporate the healthy mind and body mission into experience, the manor’s cellar was reconstructed into a modern, blue mosaic-tiled-wall spa, with medical offices, a hammam, and treatment cabines. The new wood and glass-walled addition houses the spa’s indoor swimming pool and couple’s suite. My childhood friend and I had the signature service, Craÿothérapie, in a large duo-cabine with twin heated tables, a double-sized hydrotherapy tub, and a wood-planked wall that was charred and gilded, Japanese-style, on site.
Our mud wraps incorporated pure chalk known for its thousand-year-old micro-organisms with restorative, softening, and soothing properties, and while the bubbly bath that followed could be romantic for many, my friend and I giggled like teens. I soaked while she had a full body massage, before mine. Along with typical services and medical treatments, there’s also the Japanese art of shinrin-yoku or forest bathing. This nod to nature is also a tribute to the Argonne forest where Giraud sources oak for its barrels. After a refreshing hour-long hike—breathing the fresh forest air and listening to silence and the sound of boots stepping on the ground—the hike concludes with a glass of Champagne Henri Giraud.
The Private Table Experience
At Domaine Giraud, wellness extends beyond body and mind to spirit—and our spirits soared with Champagne on a cellar tour, at a tasting in the art-filled maison where the tasting table is constructed out of one long piece of Argonne Forest oak, and at a private Table Experience (for two to twelve), the house speciality. Ours was a seven-course dinner, which Ebby, the manor’s Chef, custom curates to complement the Champagne Henri Giraud wines and cooked and served in front of us. Ebby uses local, seasonal ingredients and—some of our dishes were vegetable-inspired: a seasonal pumpkin, a gratin of beans with pistachio, scallops, smoked in Argonne oak, which was paired with Esprit Nature, the wine devoted to a healthy mind and body.
My favorite, Aÿ Rouge Grand Cru 2018, accompanied the magret duck breast sourced from a local Farm du Moulin, which Ebby prepared sous-vide and seared in front of us and presented with rosemary potatoes. Finally, he melted some local honey and sautéed thinly sliced apples, which he served topped with ice cream and a glass of Ratafia Champenois Solera S90-16. Ebby prepares foods—including guest breakfasts—according to individual nutritional tastes and requests—we asked him to go all out and indulge!
Irvina Lew is an award-winning freelance contributor to a variety of travel books, lifestyle magazines, and websites. As a dedicated spa aficionado, the Long Island, New York native has been introducing readers to the world’s best spa venues and experiences for decades. A Travel Classic alumnus, Lew is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors and the Society of American Travel Writers. Readers can find many of her published pieces posted on her website: irvinalew.com and by following @sipsupstayspa.