Arnaud Margaine has 6.5 acres of predominately Chardonnay in Montagne de Reims, Pinot Noir country. Most of the vines are in Villers-Marmery, a village that grows 95% Chardonnay despite being in Montagne de Reims, and about 32 years old. He also has a small plot of Pinot Noir vines in Verzy. The wines, no surprise, are Chardonnay dominated. Perhaps interestingly, Veuve Clicquot owns a lot of vineyards here as well.
The wines are described as "some of the most hauntingly
beautiful and original Champagnes
you’ll ever drink" by wine well known importer Thierry Theise. They do stand out in a crowd of wines for sure!
Chardonnay was apparently planted (as the legend goes) around 1900 by one grower, and he had such success that others followed suit. Some opinion that the area may be ideal for Chardonnay, with its eastward exposure guarding against spring frosts which are a worry with Chardonnay. The Chardonnay does seem more powerful and has been descried as "bigger-bodied" than well known Chardonnay area Côte des Blancs. It is certainly different, and Villers-Marmery has an entire meter of topsoil over the chalk base, as opposed to just 4 inches in the Côte des Blancs.
Champagne A. Margaine was founded in the 1920s and expanded by Arnaud's father in the 50s. Arnaud is the 4th generation farming these field. Experimentation is ongoing in the fields and in the cellar, so these wines may evolve from year to year. Current thinking is avoiding malolactic fermentation in a lot of the wines to preserve fresh fruitiness, fermenting some of the wines in Burgundy barrels and using them for blending, storing the dosage in barrels (which I've never heard of again). They are also storing a lot of reserve wines for blending and keeping them in bottles rather than stainless steel tanks, analogous to what Bollinger does.
Tasting Note: Champagne A Margaine Special Club 2006 Blanc de Blancs - May 2013, Rated A-
Young and delicious. Light yellow with lots of bubbles, so many that it takes time to pour a glass!
The nose is primarily a wonderful deep chalk with some minerals, but also has a little toast and golden apple as it warms.
The palate has intense lemon and hint of orange. Very well balanced and focused. Custard and cream. Touch of fresh golden apple around the edges.
This will only improve with time.
Tasting Note: Champagne A Margaine Brut Rose a Villers Marmery - December, 2012, rated B+/A-. The big boy critics liked this a little more than I did apparently, although I think it's extremely nice.
A festive pink color with some pink. Almost looks like a kool aid color, and quite pretty
80% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Noir including 11% of still red wine.
Nose - Some minerals, chalk, distant rose petals and small red berries, perhaps cranberries, in the background. Strawberries as it breathes.
Rich and round on the palate, with ripe fruits on the (long) finish. A mélange of tropical fruit, including blood orange. Elegant, yet rich and powerful.
This could stand up to some significant food! Intense, not an easygoing style of Champagne.