“I should have drunk more Champagne,” the economist John Maynard Keynes supposedly said on his deathbed. (The quote is often rendered in a longer version, but parsimony seems more authentic on death’s door.)
Those are not likely to be the last words of Ramon Narvaez. “I drink Champagne every day,” says the gregarious sommelier in charge of the wine programs for Robert Wiedmaier’s empire of restaurants, including Marcel’s, Brasserie Beck, Mussel Bar and Brabo. “I love the stuff.”
As the weather turns cold and holiday decorations begin to grace the shopping malls, it’s time to think of Champagne toasts during family gatherings and end-of-year celebrations. As if on cue, Narvaez is busy expanding his Champagne list at Marcel’s from about 40 labels to 75, with plans to stock more than 100 before long. These are primarily “grower” Champagnes, made in small quantities by the farmers who grow the grapes themselves, as opposed to the large Champagne houses that buy up grapes and fashion wines in a house style.
Last Friday was “Champagne Day,” a holiday that has no significance other than marketing the brand. At Marcel’s, however, Narvaez and Wiedmaier offered a flight of three grower Champagnes with appetizers that featured oysters, quail eggs and, of course, generous amounts of osetra caviar. Featured wines included the ethereal Jacquesson 734, liquid silk on the palate, and the Veuve Fourny Brut Nature, bone dry and lively, with flavors that danced across my palate. There was also the bigger, oak-aged Lamiable Brut to pair with richer dishes.
For now, the Marcel’s list is still a work in progress. It’s by-the-glass selections feature only Nicolas Feuillatte, a co-op wine that is actually one of Champagne’s best values. Narvaez promises more as the list develops.
“The good times are coming back,” he says. Let’s hope so. These wines are worth celebrating.