- Champagne AR Lenoble, Cuvee Intense NV
- Champagne AR Lenoble, Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs, Chouilly, NV
- Champagne AR Lenoble, Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs, Chouilly, 2006
I first encountered Champagne AR Lenoble at the Altaya Wines Annual Tasting last year. So when I realised I was going to be in Épernay I immediately contacted Antoine Malassagne, one of the two owners and great grandson of the founder, Armand-Raphaël Graser, who kindly agreed to have me visit.
Pulling into the small offices in Damery it was immediately clear this is a smaller, family run business. As I waited for my appointment, I chatted with a sommelier from Paris who had driven down and packed his Mini to the brim with stock for his restaurant – it would appear I am not the only one who finds these bubbles delicious!
My host, Magali, was absolutely charming and we began our tour looking at the traditional wooden presses or coquard presses that are used to crush the grapes. Each press holds 4 kg of grapes and in a 4 hour cycle ever so gently extracts the juice for fermentation. Fortunately the three presses were in varying stages of assembly so for me, a WSET Diploma student, this was perfect and I happily snapped away.
Moving through the bottling facility we headed down into the caves, which are approximately 20 metres underground and date back to the 17th century. Cut from the chalk for which the region is famous these cool, damp cellars maintain a constant 10 degrees Celsius all year round – the perfect temperature for allowing the wine to rest and age before release.
With only 18 ha in Chouilly, Côtes des Blancs (Grand Cru) and Bisseuil, Montagne de Reims (Premier Cru), the family have long standing contracts with grape growers in the region to supplement quantities in order to produce the annual volume of approximately 35,000 bottles. The contracts are for Pinot Meunier only with the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir coming from the family owned vines.
Moving inside we not only warmed up but tasted through a range of champagnes from Lenoble including the House cuvée and Blanc de Blancs. Both wines showed good structure with a creamy mousse and mouth feel leading on to a good balance of fruit flavours and flavours from the secondary fermentation.
The final champagne I tasted brought me full circle and back to the one that had introduced me to Champagne Lenoble in Hong Kong – the Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs 2006. A bright gold coloured wine, this is my kind of Champagne with lots of bread and nut aromas and flavours that are nicely freshened by citrus fruits of lemon and grapefruit. The finish was long with lingering notes of almonds and hazelnuts – very, very nice!
Sadly I was having to spit these lovely wines to ensure I was ready for the next appointment of the day. On taking my leave I headed back into Épernay and to a tasting with Cédric Thiebault, Chef de cave for Besserat de Bellefon…
Cuvee Intense NV
Blend: 40% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Meunier, 30% Pinot Noir
Base wine: 2009
Reserve wines: 20%
Aromas of fresh pear, apple, cream, baked apple or apple tarte tatin and honey. Very fresh fruit in the glass, as it opened creamy dairy notes and honey came through, finishing with fruit flavours of poached pear and mineral notes of chalk.
Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs, Chouilly, NV (House Style)
Blend: 100% Chardonnay from 2007 and 2006
First tasting showed toast, honey, almonds, poached pear, dark honey and minerals. A good finish with clear chalk notes. As it opened in the glass some heady floral notes came through with toffee and dark honey.
Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs, Chouilly, 2006, Brut
Blend: 100% Chardonnay
Aromas of bread, yeast, buttered toast, almond paste. On the palate nuts (hazelnuts, almonds), subtle marzipan, buttered toast, very creamy mouth feel, citrus – lemon and grapefruit. Long finish of almonds and hazelnuts.
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