Brace yourself, because today’s sensational “Terroirs” Brut Rosé is loaded with specs that are typically reserved for $100-and-up players. What you’re receiving in this magnificent bottle of Champagne is (1) the inimitable power of Chardonnay from Grand Cru Chouilly; (2) a dash of Pinot Noir elegance from Premier Cru Bisseuil; (3) a healthy blend of reserve wines for added complexity; and (4) over five staggering years of aging in a 60-foot-deep, carved-from-chalk cellar. All this ultimately amounts to one thing: today’s $49 price tag makes no logical sense.
This, of course, shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. Just open any trending Champagne book or visit any wine site and you’ll see unrelenting hero-worship for AR Lenoble. Their elite vineyard sources, painstakingly sustainable farm work, and extraordinary patience/expertise in the cellar is off-the-charts, and I’m certain that when the majority gets their hands on today’s new disgorgement, everyone will make a mad-dash for an allocation. Luckily, we made a personal visit to AR Lenoble’s Champagne estate in Damery, laughed, ate, drank, and ultimately ended up securing one of the first batches to hit America. They’ve managed to bottle a Brut Rosé, of Grand Cru and Premier Cru origins, that delivers vibrating tension, finesse, and outstanding freshness for a remarkably low price—don’t even think about missing it!
AR Lenoble is a rare breed in Champagne—both a highly respected house and independently owned since day one. This is a family resolute in keeping operations close-knit and crafting the purest expressions from an impressive collection of elite vineyards. The glitz and glamour of ‘Champagne Houses’ have enchanted consumers with its flashy marketing and premium pricing, but when stripped of that, many can be left exposed. While technically a négociant house, AR Lenoble is hardly just another “merchant”—they’re in an entirely different playing field. Not only does this humble estate operate with a small grower mentality, but they have also staunchly remained 100% family-owned and independent since the beginning. Current proprietors Anne and Antoine Malassagne are ensuring it stays that way now and for generations to come.
In 1915, Armand-Raphaël Graser made the fatherly decision to move his family from Alsace in order to protect them from the nasty vibrations of the First World War. It took five years to craft his first champagne and 20 more to actually establish the house, but with perseverance and a little help along the way (from Léon de Tassigny, who went on to take the helm at Champagne Jacquesson), AR Lenoble began making its way onto the world scene. Lenoble is now run by his great-grandchildren, the brother-sister team of Anne and Antoine Malassagne, who have brought on new practices while preserving the traditions that preceded them. The Malassagnes have made sustainable viticulture a priority, eschewing chemical fertilizers, and eliminating other non-organic vineyard treatments. Additionally, reserve wines are fermented in a mixture of unique vessels and dosage levels are kept low to let the fruit and terroir character shine. Theirs is the epitome of progressive thinking.
AR Lenobles’s vintage Chouilly bottlings are always powerful spectacles to behold, thus making their “Terroirs” rosé guilty by association: a whopping 92% of today’s fruit comes from this renowned Grand Cru village, with the remaining 8% being Pinot Noir from 1er Cru Bisseuil. All of their grapes are sustainably farmed, manually harvested, and meticulously sorted before entering the press. The wine predominantly ferments in stainless steel vats and neutral oak vessels for further complexity and subtle oxygen influences. Each bottle is based on the 2013 vintage plus a healthy percentage of older reserve wines that were blended in right before bottling in the first quarter of 2014. Following, it was sent into their deep cellars for five years and disgorged in May of 2018 with a very light, very sensible dosage (well under five grams of sugar per liter).
In the glass, AR Lenoble’s “Terroirs” rosé reveals a bright salmon core with flashes of orange and silver. It’s hard to tear your eyes away from its gorgeous, near-chameleonic hues, that is until you smell the wine. At the right temperature (about 50 degrees) and the right stemware (all-purpose is perfect), the nose erupts with red and yellow apples, pomegranate, wild strawberries, blood orange, kumquat, citrus zest, Meyer lemon, baking spice, brioche, toasted nuts, immense layers of crushed chalk, and a hint of damp herbs. The broad-layered, pillowy palate is wonderfully savory and fresh, resulting in intense salivation that directs you to another sip. The raw, crushed mineral power of Grand Cru Chouilly is highlighted from start to finish but kept in check by a judicious 8% dose of the ripe and understatedly elegant Pinot Noir. It’s simply a beautiful rosé that oozes class and luxury, all for under $50. It’d be a shame to run out of this, so stock up as much as you can and make sure one of your bottles is enjoyed alongside a smattering of Spanish ham, preferably jamóns Serrano and Iberico. Cheers!
Grand Cru Chouilly & Premier Cru Bisseuil
92% Chardonnay, 8% Pinot Noir
Partial Neutral Oak Fermentation
Chalk & Clay