The Place: Marniquet’s estate vineyards in the Vallee de la Marne town of Venteuil west of Epernay.
Marniquet is a third generation farmer growing grapes in Venteuil. After learning from his father and grandfather, Jean-Pierre Marniquet took over the family business in 1974. Since then he has modernized operations and improved quality while still respecting tradition. This is Pinot Meunier country and, unlike many other houses that use meaner but don’t talk about it, Marniquet embraces Pinot Meaner in his cuvees. The wines here are all stored in a Hobbit hole of a cellar cut deep in the limestone chalk of the hill side and are hand riddled.
By now you know I love Champagne but you may not know of my particular fondness for that toasty-biscuity note that come from Pinot Meunier. I don’t want it all the time but when I want it, nothing else will do. It is the Champagne equivalent of comfort food. Some people think of Pinot Meunier as an inferior grape but I think of it as a sort of guilty pleasure. And of course it is essential for lower-priced Champagnes intended to be drunk young. Spec’s carries three of the Marniquet cuvées but this basic (and least expensive) cuvée – Brut Tradition – is a personal favorite for that particular Pinot Meunier-biscuit note. As a winter Champagne, it hits the spot.
J.P. MARNIQUET Brut Tradition, Champagne, NV ($29.99)
A 12% alcohol blend of 50% Pinot Meunier, 35% Chardonnay, and 15% Pinot Noir all from Marniquet’s estate vineyards in Venteuil in the Vallee de la Marne. Straw in color and fully sparkling. Dry, medium-bodied with fresh acidity. Toasty-yeasty-biscuity with lively lemony citrus and some red fruit with limestone mineral and a hint of spice. Really very long finish. Delicious, focused, fresh, alive-in-the-mouth but with that nicely earthy-toasty richness from the Meunier. Really hits the spot. Yum. BearScore: 92.