Peter Liem’s magnificent book has just been published – and it’s an absolute must for any champagne lover, even more so as it’s accompanied by the comprehensive 1944 Larmat maps of Champagne’s individual lieux-dits.
According to Peter, “the twentieth-century image of Champagne often emphasized brand, marketing, and celebration, sometimes to the detriment of champagne’s identity as a wine. While this is still part of the hegemony, the twenty-first century has brought a more diverse portrait, with both producers and consumers addressing questions of integrity, authenticity, and place…This section introduces some of the people behind this transformation. They all have a common cause: moving the appellation forward by giving champagne, at last, a true sense of place.”
AR Lenoble is honoured to be counted amongst these producers: “This small, family-owned champagne house was founded in 1920 by Armand-Raphaël Graser, and today, it’s in the hands of his great-grandchildren, Antoine Malassagne and his sister Anne. The house owns 45 acres (18 hectares) of vines, 27 acres (11 hectares) of which are in the grand cru of Chouilly and planted with chardonnay. The rest are pinot noir in Bisseuil and meunier in Damery, where Lenoble is located. Vineyard work emphasizes natural treatments, with some parcels cultivated organically. Lenoble’s nonvintage blend, made from all three varieties, is released in three versions: Cuvée Intense is a polished and full-bodied brut; Dosage Zéro is the same wine aged for another year on the lees, showing a rich texture for a non-dosé; and Cuvée Riche is a well-balanced demi-sec, more suitable for cheeses or savory dishes than for dessert. From Chouilly, the Malassagnes make both a nonvintage Blanc de Blancs and a vintage Blanc de Blancs, which show the ample body and generous fruit flavors typical of the cru. The vintage-dated Blanc de Noirs is all pinot noir from Bisseuil, vinified partially in wood to balance Bisseuil’s pronounced minerality and naturally high acidity. The two villages are combined in the Rosé Terroirs, a delicate, lively wine. At the top of the range are two terroir-specific cuvées: the vintage-dated Gentilhomme is a savory, expressive blanc de blancs exclusively from old vines below the Butte de Saran in Chouilly, were the village’s finest parcels are, while Les Aventures is a single-vineyard blanc de blancs from a Chouilly vineyard of the same name, blended from multiple vintages. Les Aventures is a superb expression of Chouilly, balancing creamy richness with soil-driven complexity.”
“The wines of Chouilly are marked by a broad build and creamy richness. Tempered by the Marne River to the North, the microclimate of Chouilly is also warmer, making it a departure from other villages in the Côte des Blancs. As a consequence, the chardonnay from this village can yield expansive and voluptious wines with a forward ripeness an soft structure. ‘I love Chouilly because you have the finesse and elegance of chardonnay, but you also have a certain richness and roundness,’ says Antoine Malassagne of AR Lenoble, which owns 27 acres (11 hectares) here. ‘It’s not austere like Le Mesnil or Avize.'”
Recommended Single-Cru & Single-Vineyard Wines of the Côte des Blancs
CHOUILLY: AR Lenoble Les Aventures, AR Lenoble Gentilhomme
Recommended Single-Cru & Single-Vineyard Champagnes of the Grande Vallée
BISSEUIL: AR Lenoble Blanc de Noirs