14 Feb 2014
Marguet Père et Fils, Grand Cru Rosé NV Champagne
From €27.90, £25, HK$320, 268 Swedish krone, $43.99, CA$51.99, 350 Danish krone, NZ$94.99, 278 Malaysian ringgit
Find this wine
I owe this week's recommendation to a combination of two senior British wine writers, the late Pamela Vandyke Price, and Philippe Boucheron, who kindly supplied this wine for her wake, held chez nous recently. Somehow I had never tasted this cuvée, one for which this venerable house, based in the Pinot Noir village of Ambonnay, is particularly well known.
We first of all toasted Pamela in the obviously hugely appropriate and meatily delicious Veuve Clicquot, La Grande Dame 2004 and only then moved on to this wine. As I was hostess, I only got round to tasting it as a rather meagre leftover in an open bottle (stoppered and left in the fridge) almost two weeks later – and still this wine made a huge impression on me. I loved the fact that it is so dramatic (another appropriate choice for PVP) yet bone dry. Made two-thirds from grand cru Chardonnay, it owes its pretty mid-rose pink to grand cru Pinot Noir. Marguet's main holdings are in Bouzy and Ambonnay. This is a full-bodied 12% wine chock full of flavour in the middle with a hint of rose petals but definitely assertive rather than pretty. I gave it a massive 17.5 out of 20 and was amazed how delicious it still was even two weeks after the bottle had been opened. As suggested by our tasting article published yesterday, Cristal, Krug, Moët and pink fizz, the quality of pink fizz does seem to be distinctly better than it was a few years ago when it was generally anodyne or excessively sweetened.
Essi Avellan MW's update of the Marguet entry in Tom Stevenson's Christie's World Encyclopedia of Champagne & Sparkling Wine is fascinating on the subject of this house. There used to be both a négociant business Marguet-Bonnerave and Marguet Père et Fils but a family reconciliation leaves us only with the latter, which has been run biodynamically and extremely energetically by Benoît Bonnerave since 2009. He has 10 ha left after selling 'a large chunk of land to Krug in 2011'. He is now claiming 'no added sulphur' and experimentation clearly runs in the genes. In 1883, before the arrival of phylloxera, Émile Marguet (a Marguet married a Bonnerave later) grafted his vines on to American rootstocks and was thoroughly ridiculed as a result. He was bankrupted and had to sell to Henriot before beginning all over again. Thank heavens he did.
Oh, and a nice coincidence, 'Benoît also makes another label, Valentine, named after his daughter, from conventionally grown grapes, to finance his venture.' I notice that Valentine is stocked by the estimable K&L of San Francisco (who had co-hosted this week's Léoville Barton dinner there with Eva Barton and her grandson. I saw her at a Mansion House dinner the next night, Wednesday, in London and she looked quite extraordinarily bright and breezy.)
You can see from the number of currencies given at the top of this just how widely distributed this lovely – surely underpriced? – wine is. Brits can drive across the Channel to buy it at just £21.20 from Boursot's Wine Collection in Ardres south of Calais. But the best UK price is £25 from the Wine Society unless you want it in magnum, in which case they are £65 apiece from Berry Bros.
Find this wine