Benoit Marguet is one of the vanguard in Champagne, pushing for quality in the vineyard and winery no matter how difficult the process. Starting with the 2008 harvest, he began setting aside and bottling separately the wine from his best vineyard plots. The 2008 Marguet Pere et Fils "Les Crayeres" Ambonnay Brut Champagne ($69.99) is the first of these wines to be released, and it is a stunner. This Champagne is composed of 70% Chardonnay and 30% Pinot Noir from old, massal selected vines in the mid-slope vineyard site Les Crayeres in Ambonnay.
As the name suggests, this is an extremely chalky site, and happens to be one of the very best in this grand cru village. Egly-Ouriet also owns vines in this vineyard, and also bottles a single vineyard expression. Benoit fermented this wine exclusively in old barrique, with very little sulfur. The 2008 vintage was a great one in Champagne, with ripeness and acid that hasn’t been seen since 1996. This wine reflects that concentration of both acidity and ripeness, and the wine shows tight and electric right now, but promises to age with the greatest of Champagnes.
Cinnamon and I opened this last night with sushi- one of our favorite pairings and a meal we try to do once a week. As usual, Akasaka in Menlo Park did a great job with the sushi, providing us with a wide range of flavors to work with the Les Crayeres. This wine was very young and tight, and I think its most impressive days are in front of it. That being said, it was extremely good with the food, and had plenty of cut for the crunchy, tempura shrimp stuffed Akasaka roll and excellent finesse that brought out the best in the subtle hamachi.
This is a very concentrated bottle of Champagne and it took a while to open up, showing better as it got warmer. The bead of this wine is remarkable, with impossible tiny bubbles making their way through serious juice, delivering texture at the top level. Just as the name suggests, this wine is incredibly chalky and driven. If you plan on drinking it now, shellfish or sushi are a must. I can’t wait to have this wine again in 5, 10 and 20 years. It is incredible! –Gary Westby