Wednesday, October 1, 2008

René Geoffroy Rosé de Saignée

René Geoffroy’s rosé is one of my favorite saignée rosés in Champagne. brooklynguy wrote an excellent Friday Night Bubbles post about it a few weeks back, which you ought to read, if you haven’t already.

On a recent visit to the estate I had a unique insight into this wine, as Jean-Baptiste Geoffroy revealed to me a secret project that he’d experimented with in 2004. (2004, it seems, was the year of experimentation chez Geoffroy: it was the first vintage in which Volupté was made as a blanc de blancs, and it was also the year that he made a Coteaux Champenois rouge out of pure meunier for the first time.) His rosé is normally 100-percent pinot noir (sometimes maybe a little meunier), macerated for roughly 60 hours or so, with the exact duration depending on the ripeness of the grapes and the conditions of the vintage. However, in 2004 he made a tiny quantity of another rosé, also a saignée, but made of two-thirds pinot noir and one-third chardonnay. He put all of the bottles away for aging, and in fact he has only tasted it once since he bottled it.

So this was the second time. He had saved some bottles of the regular 2004 rosé to compare it with, and he disgorged a bottle of each of them for us to taste. Geoffroy releases his rosé very young, after the minimum 15 months of lees aging (the current release is 2006), as he doesn’t like either the color or the flavors of old rosé: he prefers it when it’s youthful, fruity and fresh. Fruitiness, for him, is the whole point of rosé, which is why he makes it as a saignée to begin with. “A saignée emphasizes the fruit much more [than a blended rosé does],” he says. “It’s much more explosive.” Yet even he had to agree that the 100-percent pinot noir rosé was showing superbly well at four years of age, with vivid, fresh flavors of brambly red fruit and an unusually intense aroma of litchi on the palate. It was spicy and aromatic, kept lively by a firm bite of citrusy acidity on the finish, and at this stage in its life it was absolutely perfect as a non-dosé.

The “other” rosé was also delicious, but starkly different in character. The color, unsurprisingly, was much lighter, as there were far fewer red grapes in the mix, and while there were some recognizable red fruit aromas, this emphasized higher-toned notes of citrus, orange peel and white peach, along with a curiously smoky, flinty component. On the palate it was fuller and rounder in body, with a creamier and more voluptuous texture, finishing with pronounced aromas of grapefruit and grapefruit pith. Although there was a hint of exotic fruit here, it veered more towards mango, starfruit and passionfruit rather than the strong litchi of the other wine. It certainly didn’t feel like a pure pinot noir, yet there was an intensity and forcefulness about it that let you know it was a saignée and not a blended rosé.

The whole reason that Geoffroy wanted to include chardonnay was “to see if I could get something more elegant,” he says. “I didn’t want to do a blended rosé. I wanted a saignée, but I thought perhaps with a little chardonnay there could be a little more finesse.” Tasting it now, the idea is interesting enough to him that he wants to experiment further, perhaps even increasing the percentage of chardonnay. “It won’t ever be as elegant as a blended rosé,” he says, “but the chardonnay still gives a touch of something different.”


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