In the 14th century the village of Pierry in Champagne welcomed a small community of Benedictine monks who built their monastery alongside the village vendangeoir (winery). Four hundred years later, amid soaring demand for Champagne wines, vine growing became the village’s main activity, not least thanks to the innovative methods of a lay brother called Jean Oudart who strove to establish the monks’ reputation as producers of high quality Pierry sparkling wine.
The chateau we see today was built in 1778 by André Delaplace as a place dedicated to wine growing. As a King’s Counsel and the Controller-General of Finances, André Delaplace was a driving force behind the export of Champagne wines. In 1791 the French Revolution forced him to sell his estate to landowner Jean-Auguste de Tyran de Flavigny, a fellow wine merchant and wine producer based in Aÿ.
Over time the estate ceased its wine growing activities and became a country retreat. All that remains today of its former grape-growing glory are the cellars and a monumental wooden wine press that was restored in 2017 by its present owners, the Henriot family.
The corps de logis, from the cellar to the belvedere, is arranged around a central octagon. The ground floor features a grand octagonal reception room whose walls are decorated with a fresco depicting scenes from Greek mythology based on Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Dating from the First French Empire, the fresco is attributed to the Ateliers de Mulhouse and survives in pristine condition.
The garden is listed as a “remarquable jardin à la française” and is bordered by trees pruned in geometric shapes that give balance to a house that is undoubtedly one of the finest properties in Champagne.
Ever since 1778 Les Aulnois has been passed down through generations of family-owned Champagne Houses that have sought to keep its original architectural and decorative elements intact. The result is a gracious stately home with that very particular atmosphere of houses steeped in a tradition of family ownership.
In January 2014, the property was acquired by the Henriot family, to serve as a showcase for the history of a Champagne producer with a signature wine style that is expressed in its surroundings. So it is that the Aulnois cellars are now the precious repository of the family’s finest bottles, including an impressive collection of ancient vintages. Set in the heart of the village of Pierry, the property remains a family residence and is now the reception centre for distinguished visitors to the Maison Henriot – clients, distributors, journalists, and wine and cultural influencers.