1 May 2020

Champagne Friday with AR Lenoble

Today we are celebrating Champagne Friday with 2012 Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs Chouilly by AR Lenoble.

We started the tradition of Champagne Friday on 28th February this year and it seems the world has changed a lot in two months. The idea behind Champagne Friday is to share some frivolous fun at the end of the month with a monthly champagne offer of something we have tasted and really loved. As a small, specialist merchant we can focus on our personal preferences and as a team we usually taste a lot of different champagnes (hard job!). Our second Champagne Friday was held on the eve of the nationwide UK lockdown, but we decided that our new tradition should continue.

The idea is that we always find a champagne that we love and then we look for a parcel of that Champagne. This month we have not had the usual number of trade tastings and also we realised that at present it is important to offer a champagne that can be delivered immediately. Therefore, we have chosen the newly arrived 2012 Lenoble Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs Chouilly. As you may remember from last month, 2012 is a superb vintage in Champagne that many argue rivals (or compliments) 2008.

AR Lenoble is a small grower, whose history started in 1920 when Armand-Raphael Graser founded AR Lenoble. Today it is run by his great-grandchildren, Anne and Antoine Malassagne. For almost a century this estate has remained entirely in family hands. Famed for their Blancs de Blancs, they own around 10ha of Grand Cru in Chouilly for Chardonnay. The estate works with unusually small yields for Champagne, only using the very first cuvee from the first press to retain elegance. All wines are aged in magnums and dosage is low, never exceeding 5-6gr/l (2gr/l on the 2012 BdB).  Anne Malassagne sums up the estate’s ethos when she describes her champagne as ‘“Wine, not bubbles…We focus on vinous rich rounded creamy styles, full of character – but with bubbles in them’. Tom Stevenson calls the Chouilly Blancs de Blancs the speciality of the domaine. He also writes that ‘the only criticism is that the fruit is so gluggy that it is almost too easy to drink’.

I vividly remember the fun we had as a team with our first Champagne Friday offer (Taittinger 2008). The subsequent offer (2012 Roederer) was tasted on the eve of lockdown by Tom and myself in the Oxfordshire countryside, both of us maintaining the newly-instituted social distancing requirement (we even brought our own glasses!). I greatly missed the team when tasting the 2012 Lenoble BB Chouilly and put an empty glass on the table for Alice, Kim, Sam and Tom. It is with that in mind that I today want to propose a toast to absent friends, and I sincerely hope that the next Champagne Friday can be celebrated under more sociable conditions.

My tasting note: This is a champagne that embodies the Blanc de Blancs style with intense lemon notes combined with quinine and conference pear, and with a serious lift of brioche on the finish. It is stylish and poised and the absolute opposite of the broad-shouldered 2012 Roederer that we tasted last month. This would be a heavenly match with smoked salmon on a sunny evening. I taste champagne from a white wine or universal glass and it opened up dramatically with time in the glass. I would have been curious to taste this decanted. Ready to drink now for its purity and focus, it could benefit from a decade or two of ageing.

And yes, I know this is not the final Friday of the month, but the first Friday of May. But doing Champagne Friday last week, just felt too early. We are definitely celebrating the end of the month today!

by Sara Guiducci, Head of Private Sales, Stannary Wine


2012 Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs Chouilly, AR Lenoble @ £300 per 6 bottle case in bond

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