I’ve just arrived back home in Champagne this evening, slightly disoriented from my voyage — I’d momentarily even forgotten that it was Friday and time for a Wine of the Week. Fortunately, I am drinking a fine bottle from Henri Goutorbe as a homecoming reward to myself (for what exactly I’m not sure, but neither do I care, as the intake of champagne seems to be my primary goal this evening). This actually happened to be the first bottle that I saw upon walking into my cellar, and seemed as good a wine as any to drink right now. Unsurprisingly, it also happens to be terrifically delicious.
Goutorbe is one of the most prominent grower estates in the village of Aÿ, although the Goutorbe family is equally as well-known for being pépiniéristes, or nurserymen for the propagation of vine cuttings. Today the Goutorbes own about 20 hectares of vines in the Grande Vallée de la Marne, and their rosé, millésime and Spécial Club are always pure Aÿ grand cru.
Goutorbe’s Spécial Club is always composed of roughly 70 percent pinot noir and 30 percent chardonnay, and is vinified entirely in stainless steel. The 2002 shows a warm, inviting nose of mocha, raspberries and grilled nuts, demonstrating both ampleness of fragrance and harmony of balance. On the palate it turns more primary in flavor, with aromas ranging from strawberry and yellow peach to kumquat and sweet apple, picking up a hint of fresh ginger and turning much more red fruit-dominated the longer the bottle is open. It has a rich texture, feeling almost velvety even though the underlying acidity is relatively prominent, and the aromas expand on the finish with bold presence and depth. While it’s drinking well right now for a 2002, it promises to gain in complexity with a few more years in the cellar — there’s a kernel of concentrated flavor on the back end that feels youthful and tightly wound, as if preserving a little time capsule for the future.
For those of you in the United States, Henri Goutorbe is represented by Terry Theise Selections/Michael Skurnik Wines, in Syosset, NY. The good people at Skurnik tell me that they’re still working with the 2000, which is also a lovely wine — it shares a familial resemblance but as I recall, it feels a little bigger and more muscular to me, while the 2002 shows a bit more finesse and detail. I don’t know when you might see the 2002, but for now, the 2000 is suggested as retailing for $87.