First, a little history of Champagne AR Lenoble
Armand-Raphaël Graser was a wine trader. He left his native Alsace, in enemy hands at the time, and moved his family to safety in the Champagne region. He set up in the town of Damery, in an 18th century building which is still the company headquarters today, and started to produce champagne, sold from 1920 onwards under the brand name "AR Lenoble". A.R. stood for Armand-Raphauml;l and "Lenoble" was a tribute to the nobility of Champagne wines.
Armand-Raphauml;l, who died accidentally in the vat-house in 1947, was succeeded by his son Joseph Graser. When he retired in 1973, Jean-Marie Malassagne, the founder's grandson, took over the business. Combining his activities as a winegrower and his profession as a doctor, he managed the house alone until the 1990's, when Champagne was hit hard by the crisis. It was becoming necessary to work full-time to run the firm and so, in October 1993, Anne Malassagne, the great-granddaughter of Armand-Raphauml;l returned to the family firm to support her father. She was joined by her brother Antoine 3 years later. The fourth generation is now firmly established!
So for more than a century now, the brilliance of Armand Raphauml;l then the Malassagne family has been passed on from generation to generation. The House is profoundly attached to its roots and its history, which Anne and Antoine continue to uphold in the purest Champagne tradition.
We had a chance to try 4 of AR Lenoble's champagnes with Tony Aspler. The following are Tony's notes:
- Lenoble L'Epurée Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs Brut (50% not put through malolactic fermentation): light straw colour with tiny bubbles; elegant, green apple and lemon nose with a mineral note; light on the palate, crisply dry, clean with good length (a breakfast champagne!). (90)
- Lenoble Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs Brut (25% of the reserve wine aged in barrel): straw colour; creamy nose of white flowers, apple, ginger and a leesy note; round on the palate, very dry peach and green apple flavours, finishing with a nutty, chalky note. (91)
- Lenoble Cuvée Gentilhomme Blanc de Blancs 2006 (30% barrel fermented): straw colour; toasty, minerally, apple nose; dry, elegant, and winey; beautifully balanced apple and lemon flavours with a stroke of oak. (92) When I mentioned that I found the champagne very "winey," Antoine lit up. "We are a wine producer," he said, "not a bubble producer."
- Lenoble Cuvée Rosé 2006 (10% Pinot Noir added): amber-pink colour; minerally, raspberry and green apple nose; very elegant with delicate raspberry and lemon flavour, good length with a crisp finish. (90)