D.C.’s New Champers Champ: Marcel’s! 100 Bottles of Bubbly (And Counting)
When D.C.'s Sax restaurant made its splashy debut last spring, the operators boasted of having the largest single collection of sparkling wines in the entire District: a total of 70 different varieties, including a few with some unusual names: "Sex," "Wet" and the unforgettable "Discobitch."
Of course, Sax wasn't the only place bragging about its bottle count. El Centro D.F. touted its 200-some tequilas and Jack Rose crowed about its countless kinds of Scotch and whiskey.
For Sax, at least, its time on top as the national capital's bastion of bubbly has come to an abrupt end. Or so it would seem.
The District's newest champers champ? It's not some plucky young upstart, but rather the venerable Marcel's, which recently surpassed the century mark. In terms of its various glittering vinos, that is.
"We're at 101 or 102—since New Year's, it might vary a bit," says Ramon Narvaez, food and beverage director for Robert Weidmaier's Zagat-topping, self-described French restaurant with the Flemish touch in the West End.
Last spring, when Sax was staking its claim to the District's champagne crown, the selection at Marcel's hovered between 40 and 50 bottles. Over the summer, Narvaez decided to bolster the supply. By the fall, he says he was obsessed. He ended up doubling the count. "I thought 100 was a good number to have—I'd like to have more," he says.
"I'm a big champagne freak," says Narvaez, whose personal mission involves sampling every single entry in Richard Juhlin's sudsy tome 4,000 Champagnes. ("That's a lot of bubbles," he admits.)
The most recent list posted on Marcel's web site includes a whopping 104 proper French champagnes by the bottle and another 11 sparkling wines, mostly from California. Narvaez says the posted tally is pretty up to date. But, he notes, "We sold a lot of bottles over the last week." And he hasn't updated the list in the wake of the calendar year's most bubbly-fueled holiday.
Perhaps the most popular variety of late, according to Narvaez, is the Veuve Fourny blanc de blanc, sold at $22 for a glass, or $95 for a full bottle. "Whatever I feature by the glass tends to be, obviously, the biggest mover, by default," he says.
I asked Narvaez where champagne and wine, in general, fits in to today's drinky zeitgeist, what with all the attention on fancy cocktails and craft beer.
"Cocktails are huge....the bartenders and mixologists are doing some crazy micro-biology stuff," he laughs. "Same thing with the beers. But, you know, wine is not trendy. It's always been a classic thing. I think consumption, if anything, has increased."