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A.R. Lenoble Chouilly Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs 2008

A.R. Lenoble Chouilly Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs 2008

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"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. Drink: 2018-2030. 94 points

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 Terroirs Chouilly-Bisseuil Rosé "mag14" will be released in 2020."

Stephan Reinhardt, Wine Advocate (238)