31st August 2018 – AR Lenoble New Reviews from Robert Parker reviewed by Stephan Reinhardt for www.robertparker.com
There are some gorgeous cuvées to discover this year from the brother-sister team of Antoine and Anne Malssagne at Domaine AR Lenoble in Damery, Marne Valley. Especially exciting are the Grand Cru wines from Chouilly (Côte des Blancs), namely the 2008 Blanc de Blancs (which combines richness with finesse) and the non-vintaged single vineyard Blanc de Blancs Les Aventures that pairs its creamy richness and intensity with iodine purity and terroir-driven freshness. The recent release blends 2002 and 2006 and is simply terrific!
However, export director Christian Holthausen is very excited about two new cuvées from the new “mag” edition—the Brut Intense “mag 14” and the Chouilly Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs Brut “mag 14.” Both of the “mag 14” wines are based on the 2014 harvest, complemented by reserve wines from a réservé perpétuelle.
The réservés perpétuelles were started in 2001 (100% Chardonnay from Chouilly) and 2002 (Chardonnay from Chouilly and Pinot Noir from Bisseuil). Initially, they were kept in stainless steel tanks, then in small 250-liter barrels and finally in 5,000-liter wooden vats, reports Holthausen. In 2010, Antoine Malssagne removed a portion from both réserves perpétuelles, which then filled into magnums and kept them with 1.5 bar of pressure under natural corks for four years. Each bottle was subsequently uncorked by hand and the wines blended with the two “mag 14” bottlings, both of which are based 60% on the 2014 harvest and 40% on reserve wines. The final cuvées were stored in the cellar in early 2015 and disgorged after three years.
“Climate change is a reality,” Antoine Malassagne is quoted in the corresponding press release. ‘The challenge for the future is to be able to bring as much freshness as possible to our reserve wines. At the end of each harvest, we observe that acidity levels are much lower than they used to be. Reserve wines now need to add complexity and richness but also freshness.”
In a separate email to me, Holthausen said, “Keeping the reserve wines in magnums under natural cork under 1.5 bar of pressure is like a ‘mini’ secondary fermentation, so the reserve wines gain some autolytic character, but that’s not the point.” He went on to explain, “The jumping point is to keep the reserve wines fresh as long as possible. We used to need rich, heavy reserve wines in Champagne 20 years ago. However, today we need reserve wines with freshness since our base wines keep having lower acidity levels and higher pH levels year after year.”
In fact, 2018 will be their sixth-earliest harvest on record, according to Holthausen. “Climate change is shockingly real, and the ‘mag’ concept is our way of making even better wines in the face of climate change.”
The “mag” edition will be continued next year with the Brut Intense “mag15,” the NV Chouilly Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs “mag 15” and the NV Brut Nature Dosage Zéro “mag14.” The NV Rosé Terroirs Chouilly-Bisseuil Rosé “mag14” will be released in 2020.
Champagne AR Lenoble has a dozen importers in the US and is distributed worldwide. Just browse their website to find the details: http://champagne-arlenoble.com/distribution
AR Lenoble Les Aventures Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs Chouilly
This single-vineyard NV Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Chouilly Brut Les Aventures assembles Chardonnay from two vintages: 2002 and 2006. Twenty-two percent of the wine was vinified in oak, and it was bottled in September 2007. Disgorged in January 2018 with less than three grams per liter of dosage, this intensely golden-yellow colored cuvée indicates lovely maturity, with iodine purity and freshness on the deep and complex nose. There are floral notes as well as dried fruit, brioche, honey and almond flavors. Dry, fine and complex on the palate, this is a highly characterful, structured, very pure and persistently salty Chouilly that has gained a lot of secondary flavors and layers over the years on the lees! It’s a fabulously vinous and vital but also matured wine with very fine bubbles and great terroir expression. It’s a really great Champagne from Chouilly, and the best is to enjoy it with food, white meat perhaps with lots of morels. The finish is immense yet pure, fresh, structured and stunningly aromatic. Tasted April 2018.
AR Lenoble Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs Chouilly Vintage 2008
The A R Lenoble 2008 Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Chouilly Brut Millésime displays a beautifully intense and golden shining citrus color. This has amazing richness and gentleness on the nose but, at the same time, delicacy, precision and finesse! This bouquet is perfectly ripe and generous but also fine and fresh, representing the chalky soils and warm microclimate of Chouilly as well as perfectly ripe and healthy fruit. Any 2008 austerity here? Negative! The attack on the palate is as fine and fresh as it is pure, piquant and aromatic. Ripe and juicy fruit flavors such as pineapples, lemons and limoncello intermix with a round and creamy but by no means bold or heavy texture that is actually marked by chalk powder and iodine flavors on the finish. In fact, this 2008 Chouilly is delicate and filigreed as well as firmly structured. To me, it is an icon wine for Chouilly, and I highly recommend it, even if only to understand the highly diverse terroirs of Champagne, even in the Côte des Blancs where Chouilly is the most northern village next to Cuis. A small part (10%) of the wine was aged in oak. The finish of the 2008 is fresh and light but also intense and persistent. This is a great vin de terroir, and to be honest, I couldn’t stop drinking it! Tasted April 2018.
AR Lenoble Premier Cru Blanc de Noirs Bisseuil 2012
The bright golden colored 2012 Blanc de Noirs Premier Cru Bisseuil Brut Millésime is a 100% Montagne de Reims Pinot Noir, 35% of which was vinified in oak. Dosed as Brut with five grams per liter of sugar, the wine opens with a deep, rich and intense yet pure and well-defined bouquet of ripe red fruits as well as floral, spicy and noble oak aromas. Pure, fresh, straight and firmly structured on the palate, this is a serious and expressive Pinot Noir with lots of character and energy. It’s a rich yet dry and mineral Champagne with a long, fresh, clean and structured finish that displays subtle floral and herbal aromas. The oaky flavors and grippy structure may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but this is doubtlessly an impressive Pinot Noir that will probably soften its straight character eventually. The herbal flavors (thyme) in the aftertaste are absolutely fascinating. Tasted April 2018.
AR Lenoble Rosé Terroirs Chouilly-Bisseuil
The NV Brut Rosé Terroirs Chouilly-Bisseuil is an assemblage of 88% Chardonnay from Chouilly Grand Cru and 12% Pinot Noir from Bisseuil 1er Cru, predominantly based on the 2012 vintage plus 28% reserve wines and aged for five years before release. Partly aged in oak (20%), this rosé displays a unique color that oscillates between bright apricot, onion and gold. The bouquet is highly finessed and ethereal in its fruit aromas. Pure, fine and subtle on the palate, this is a dry, fresh, elegant, well-structured and mineral rosé that shows a lot of the finesse and grace of Chardonnay and the persistent finish of a delicate Pinot Noir. Tasted April 2018.
AR Lenoble Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs Chouilly “mag 14”
The NV Chouilly Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs Brut “mag 14” is based on the 2014 harvest and 40% reserve wines, most of which had been aged in magnums under natural cork. Partly (25%) vinified in oak, the wine displays an intense golden-citrus color and opens with a clear, ripe and fruity bouquet. Fresh and vital on the palate, this is a very fruity yet dry and vivacious cuvée with a tight structure and good grip in the finish. There are some fresh oak flavors in the aftertaste. This is an excellent and characterful aperitif with lots of citrus flavors in the finish. Tasted April 2018.
AR Lenoble Intense “mag 14”
The NV Brut Intense “mag 14” is a blend of Chardonnay (Chouilly Grand Cru), Pinot Noir (Bisseuil 1er Cru) and Pinot Meunier (Damery) and combines the 2014 vintage with 40% reserve wines, most of which had been aged in magnums under natural cork. With 25% aged in oak, the wine shows a clear, intense citrus color and opens with a clean, very aromatic yet fine and fresh bouquet of lychee and floral notes. Delicate and fresh on the palate, with nice fruit (red berries) and good grip in the finish, this is a pure and tight yet pretty persistent blend that goes well as an aperitif and with lighter courses, even seafood and raw fish. The finish is clean, straight, fresh and salty. Tasted April 2018.