Wednesday, December 21, 2011

I have had the pleasure of working with Benoit Marguet since early 1999 when he was just "taking the reins" of the family property. Since then I have had the pleasure of importing his champagnes, drinking his champagnes, and watching this young man develop his talents in making great champagnes. And always with the aim of improving the quality and finesse and producing the best wine possible from fruit that is grown using organic farming methods. This is a multi generation champagne house (see: history) that Benoit is taking in new directions with new blends and energizing the traditional cuvées (french for blends). Visit the Marguet website for an introduction to the property.

Most of the champagnes produced at Marguet Père et Fils are Grand Cru, meaning that all the grapes come from vineyards that are formally classified as having the best potential for producing the best fruit, hence "Grand Cru". I will focus on this property in a series of posts starting with this one, where I will introduce the entry level champagne of Marguet Père et Fils, the Blanc de Noirs. This offering replaces the original "Tradition" cuvée that was a blend of Pinot Noir (70%) and Chardonnay (30%). This was a lovely champagne, but not very different from the next in line, their Reserve champagne (that I will focus on in the next post), and so Benoit set his sights to revamp the Tradition, and created his Blanc de Noirs.

In a move rarely taken by a champagne house, Benoit chose to forgo Grand Cru status and use Pinot Meunier (25-30%) in the blend with Pinot Noir, as the Pinot Meunier grape is not permitted in Grand Cru champagnes. "I had the most remarkable source of Pinot Meunier, and felt that I could make an extraordinary champagne, rather than stay with the traditional style and maintain Grand Cru status for my entry level champagne" says Benoit Marguet.

Well, he is certainly right. This is a champagne that is packed with flavor, and can be served with a wide variety of foods as well as just by itself, and it has impressed everyone to whom I have served it. What's more, as I import the wine direct from Benoit, this wine comes in well under the price of comparable selections available on the market.

Look for it at Binny's for around $37, and bring in the new year.  Cheers!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Last post I introduced Thierry Fluteau. His champagnes are made from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, sometimes one or the other (i.e. Blanc de Noirs or Blanc de Blancs respectively), sometimes as a blend of the two. As the vineyards are in the southern reaches of the Champagne region, the soils are composed of clay and hard calcerous limestone dating from the Jurassic period, unlike the northern and more familiar part of Champagne where the soils are very chalky. 

This gives his wines a very focused and powerful fruit that is well-balanced with acidity and go well with appetizers, hors d'oeuvres and light fare such as fish or chicken (though I am of the opinion that champagne goes well with just about anything). 

A number of his wines are available in the Chicago market in the price points from $31 to $37 and are perennial favorites at my champagne tastings. You can find them at many of the Binny's Depot locations.

Here is a list of his wines you can find here with a link to their page on my website:

Please note that the vintages on the site pages don't always represent those available on the market.


Saturday, December 10, 2011

Now that we are in the holiday season, and wine drinkers thoughts wander through a lovely fog of bubbles (read: Champagne), we should really think about the true future of great champagne, the small producers themselves. These producers are often called "Grower-Producers" (Recoltant-Manipulant in french), who grow their own grapes, make their own wine, blend the wines into the various cuvées (french for blend, nothing more) and then make the champagne and offer it to the market. Since their grapes come from their own vineyards, their champagnes have real character and reflect what the french call terroir.

This is just the opposite of the large champagne houses, often noted as the "Grande Marques", who buy grapes on contract from all over the champagne region (often confused with "Grand Cru" champagnes) and whose champagnes are more "generic" in style.

For starters, I will feature a small producer in the southern Aube part of the Champagne region from Gyé-sur-Seine (Gyé on the Seine; that's right, the same river that flows through the center of Paris), Thierry Fluteau, a third generation champagne producer who excels in producing a number of cuvées using the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes, and whose American wife, Jennifer, writes a lovely blog ( that will really give you a window into the life of a small champagne producer.