Sunday, July 18, 2010

René Geoffroy's Empriente - One of the Best Values in Pinot-Heavy Champagne

I want to tell you about what I think is one of the best wine values in Champagne, a wine made by René Geoffroy. All of René Geoffroy's wines are compelling, from the wildly energetic Rosé de Saignée to the refined Volupté to the truly fine "entry level" wine, a non-vintage wine called Expression. It is primarily Meunier and it is a delicious wine that offers more complexity and finesse than one might expect from a non vintage wine.

There is another wine in the portfolio, a wine that has quietly amazed me since the first time I tasted it. I'm talking about Empriente, the Pinot Noir based wine made from a single vintage, although it is not a vintage wine. This is a brilliant wine every year, easily equal in quality to most vintage wines I've drunk, and it is priced like a high quality non-vintage wine at about $55 in NYC. The problem is, hardly anyone sells the wine. I've looked for this wine for years without success. I did find some recently, however, and the other night I enjoyed sharing a bottle with friends after dinner.

Here is what Peter Liem of has to say about Empriente:

Empreinte is pure Cumières, made predominantly from pinot noir and always made from a single year, which is stated on the back label rather than on the front. While all three of Champagne’s major grape varieties are grown in Cumières, the village is known primarily for its pinot noir, and Geoffroy believes that Empreinte, which means “footprint”, is the cuvée that best expresses the Cumières terroir. For simplicity’s sake, Geoffroy usually says that the Empreinte is a blend of 75 percent pinot noir and 25 percent chardonnay, all fermented in large oak foudres, but in fact this changes considerably from one year to the next.
NV René Geoffroy Champagne Empriente, $55, Terry Theise Selections/Michael Skurnik Imports. We drank the 2004, and this wine is still in the early part of its life. It took a solid half hour to fully reveal itself, but the reward was worth waiting for. This wine is in perfect balance - it has everything and nothing juts out even a little bit. The expression of fruit here is so delicate - tiny thick skinned red berries, pure and intense. And oddly, considering that this wine is mostly Pinot, there was a unmistakable lemon note to the nose and palate once the wine opened up - the Chardonnay in the blend (12%) showed more of its character than might be expected. Underneath this red lemony fruit is the layer that for me really defines this wine - there is a bass note of chalk here that everything rests upon, and it is graceful, and the overall effect is one of subtlety and finesse.

There is no flash here and it is so perfectly balanced that it might be possible to miss how deep and great this wine is. If you open one soon, let it unfold, pay attention - it's hard for me to think of many Champagnes that offer the same quality at this price.


Aaron said...

Nice note on a wonderful producer. Regarding the lemon component you mention, I find a similar quality in Geoffroy's most recent bottling of the Expression as well, a sort of big-boned biscuity quality that I'm used to associating with Chardonnay-dominant Champagnes. The plushness and depth of fruit's there too, so it's not like the Pinots are obscured, but there's certainly a dual personality that belies the proportions of the blend.

Christy said...

I LOVE this wine. Full disclosure - I own a shop that sells it. And the Rose de Saignee. And the Expression. And the almost-grower Duc de Romet. So obviously I'm a fan. I love the Rene Geoffroy wines because they combine straight up deliciousness with grace and complexity. I am getting thirsty.

Anonymous said...

This has become a very special bottle for myself and Ayako, thanks to you, Sir.

Thank you.