An island of Chardonnay in a sea of Pinot Noir creates near Blanc de Blancs giving the most simply delicious Champagnes in this portfolio. A very small estate, 6 hectares producing around 4,000 cases, thus NOT MUCH WINE FOR US. Very reasonable prices! Very pretty packaging! They have their own minerality and tropical fruitiness; they’re bigger-bodied than wines of the Côte de Blancs, and to my mind they’re just about as pretty as Chardonnay can be. My sense is this particular terroir is predestined for flowery feminine Champagne. These are some of the most hauntingly beautiful and original Champagnes you can ever drink.
Arnaud Margaine took over this six and a half hectare estate from his father Bernard in 1989 and is the fourth generation of his family to work these vineyards in the Mogntagne de Reims. The estate was founded in the 1920s and was expanded by Bernard in the 1950s. In 1977 Bernard joined the Special Club and Arnaud has continued his father’s commitment to high quality champagnes and continues to improve his raw materials in the vineyard.
The majority of Margaine’s holdings are in the village of Villers-Marmery, a 95% village for Chardonnay, and the parcels here are old averaging about 32 years. Margaine also has a small parcel of Pinot Noir in the village of Verzy.
The methods at this estate are not formulaic and Arnaud continues to experiment with new ideas in both the vineyard and the cellar. He prefers to make decisions in the cellar based on what he feels the wines need, rather than what was done in the previous year. Arnaud is preventing malolactic fermentation in a higher preportion of the wines, saying that he finds that non-malo wines have more freshness of fruit. “It’s not just the acidity” he says, “but the fruit as well. With the malo you lose a little of that fresh fruitiness.”
Margaine has been experimenting for the last ten years with aging some of the vin clair in third and fourth use burgundy barrels as well as fermenting some parcels in barrel. Twenty percent of the wines are now fermented in barrel, but these are not used to make a barrel fermented super-cuvees; rather they are a used for blending and achieving balance in the blends. The dosage is also stored in oak barrels, which Margaine says adds additional character.
Arnaud keeps an unusually large amount of reserve wines in his cellars and starting in 2005 he began using bottles rather than stainless steel tanks for some of the reserve stocks. Bollinger is another estate who practices this and Arnaud is pleased with the results. “Aromatically the wine stays very fresh and vivacious” he says.