AR Lenoble Newsletter – Our thoughts on the 2016 vins clairs…
The climatic conditions immediately before harvest saved the 2016 crop after a very challenging year. Beautiful sunshine at the end of August and in early September lasted throughout the harvest and permitted us to obtain ripe grapes. Our pinot meunier from Damery was ready to be picked much earlier than our chardonnay from Chouilly, something that required us to interrupt the harvest for several days in order to obtain potential alcohol levels of between 10 and 11 degrees.
After counting the clusters three weeks before the harvest, we did not expect more than an average of 7500 kg per hectare. This estimate did not take into account the abundant periods of rain 15 days before the start of the harvest which essentially benefited the chardonnay grapes with a cluster weight of more than 200 grams. This unexpected weight of the chardonnay grapes made it possible for us to obtain an average yield of slightly more than 10000 kg across our 18 hectares of vineyards.
However, the tasting of the musts during the harvest indicated a certain aromatic dilution, especially in the case of chardonnay, a feeling that has been confirmed over the last few months after repeated tasting of the vins clairs.
Chardonnay from our 10 hectares in the Grand Cru village of Chouilly
During the harvest, Antoine made the decision to block the malolactic fermentation for a large portion of the wines in order to keep a good level of acidity as well as freshness. The wines are already aromatically expressive, leaving beautiful expressions of white flowers and citrus fruits. Some stirring of the fine lees (bâtonnage) in a few select barrels has started to reveal a beautiful roundness. The acidity is sufficiently present and it will not be necessary to re-acidify in any way. However, all of these wines are somewhat lacking in structure and the finish in the mouth remains a bit short. This lack of complexity, this lack of strong character and personality, means that we have taken the decision not to declare a vintage for our Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs Chouilly. That said, once the wines are assembled with our perpetual reserve, we are confident that we will be able to create an excellent Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs Chouilly non-vintage.
Pinot Noir from our 6 hectares in the Premier Cru village of Bisseuil
All these wines have been vinified in either large wooden vats or small oak barrels. Back in September, the tasting of the musts already gave us hope for a very nice aromatic potential. The malolactic fermentation was also blocked and everything was implemented in the hopes of obtaining a vintage champagne. After a few months of tasting the vins clairs, the nose and the mouth reveal themselves to be very expressive with seductive aromas of red fruits. Toasty, spicy expressions have been made possible through vinification in wood, thereby enlarging the palette of aromas. We are still evaluating these wines but before the end of April, we hope to be able to decide whether or not we will declare a vintage for our Premier Cru Blanc de Noirs Bisseuil.
Pinot Meunier from our 2 hectares in Damery in the Marne Valley
The tasting of the musts allowed us to imagine wines that would also become fairly aromatic. However, the tasting of vins clairs has been slightly less spectacular than we had hoped. It is true that there is lots of nice elegant fruit, and on some vats where the malolactic fermentation was blocked we are finding some lovely citrus notes; the wines are elegant to be sure, already quite open. But they are lacking somewhat in complexity both in terms of mouth and length. But the level of acidity is interesting and should allow us to create a lovely non-vintage wine in due course.
A look back on the 2016 growing cycle
Champagne suffered frost and hail in the spring then humidity during flowering in June. The heat wave in late August (four days with temperatures of 40 degrees at night) created heat damage in certain plots. The drought stress of 2015 undoubtedly contributed to the underdevelopment of certain clusters.
Nature often prepares us for the worst but during early September, a crucial period for the quality of the grapes, she showed us her tender mercy. The end of maturation period of the grapes took place under the sun, without great heat and with cool nights which helped to preserve acidity. Most importantly, the grapes that arrived in our presses were in excellent sanitary condition.
On 16th September, we started picking grapes from our 2 hectares of pinot meunier in Damery followed by our 6 hectares of pinot noir in the Premier Cru village of Bisseuil.
In order to pick the grapes at their perfect maturity, we suspended the harvest for a few days until 24th September when we began harvesting our 10 hectares of chardonnay in the Grand Cru village of Chouilly on the Côte des Blancs.
Our approach in the vineyards
AR Lenoble has always been committed to a culture of sound, sustainable agricultural practices in its vineyards with sustainable development firmly integrated into its core philosophy. AR Lenoble was officially recognised in September 2012 when our vineyards were certified Haute Valeur Environnementale.
This certification rewards 20 years of friendly practices established in the vineyard, concretely:
- Zero use of chemical fertilizers
- Practically zero use of any herbicide
- Drastic limitations on phytosanitary inputs to fight against powdery mildew and downy mildew
- A special focus on biodiversity with the introduction of hedges, orchards, slopes, trees and walls