Sparkling Wine Review of Antoine Malassagne’s AR Lenoble ‘mag 14’ Brut Intense Champagne, France
Score: 92/100 points
AR Lenoble is a relatively small family-owned Champagne house, one of the rare ones to still be entirely independent.
Based in Damary, AR Lenoble runs 18 hectares of vineyards (45 acres) using environmentally-friendly practices, and split between the Grand Cru village of Chouilly, the first village on the Côte des Blancs (10 hectares of chardonnay); the Premier Cru village of Bisseuil, located between Mareuil-sur-Ay and Tours-sur-Marne (6 ha of pinot noir) and home of rich and structured Pinot Noir; the village of Damery, located to the immediate east of Cumières (2 ha of Meunier).
Here is how Jancis Robinson, Master of Wine, summarizes the essence of AR Lenoble:
“AR Lenoble is probably the most admired boutique family house right now. There is an international buzz and it reflects the outburst of family creative energy in the past few years from brother and sister owners Antoine and Anne Malassagne. Based in Damery in the Marne, independent and family-owned, the house’s jewel of terroir quality is their 10 ha (25 acres) of Chardonnay in grand cru Chouilly on the Côtes des Blancs. It provides the finesse and elegant minerality which is the heart of all their wines. Ploughing the soil, grassing the alleys (for low yields) and near-organic HVE-certified viticulture and winery practices all make for intense fruit and fresh precision in all their wines. Here is a small house making a big point.” – Jancis Robinson
At the end of 2018, the house has just released a totally new cuvée that’s been 8+ years in the making” ‘mag 14’ Intense Brut.
After a long and patient process of development, the very first edition of Champagne AR Lenoble Intense “mag14” and the very first edition of Champagne AR Lenoble Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs Chouilly “mag14” have finally been released from the house’s cellar.
As soon as they arrived at AR Lenoble nearly 25 years ago after taking over from their father Jean-Marie Malassagne in 1993, sister-and-brother co-owners Anne and Antoine Malassagne made the decision to start conserving their reserve wines in 225-litre barrels using the principle of the perpetual reserve, a process that continues to this day. A few years later, they invested in 5,000-litre casks to allow for an ageing process that was slower than in barrels. In these containers, reserve wines were able to obtain additional brightness and freshness.
More recently, in 2010, as part of their constant research for ways to improve the quality of their wines, they decided to add an additional element to the perpetual reserve by conserving some of their reserve wines in magnums under natural cork and staple. The magnum format has the ideal “liquid to oxygen” ratio, and as these reserve wines age under 1.5 bar of pressure and are therefore protected from oxygen, a subtle, exceptional aromatic palate develops over time – and yet the reserve wines remain fresh.
Following the 2014 harvest, and for the very first time, Antoine Malassagne decided to blend these unique reserve wines into his non-vintage champagne wines for the very first time.
He created these “new” non-vintage wines using 40% reserve wines and 60% wines from the 2014 harvest. The final blends were then placed in our cellars and after three and a half years, the first two wines are ready to be enjoyed. It’s been a very long and expensive process, but we can now say proudly that AR Lenoble is making some of the most ambitious brut non-vintages in all of Champagne wines, and at a very critical moment in time for the environment.
Find below my wine reviews and tasting notes of AR Lenoble mag 14 Champagne.
You can watch the review and my comments in the video below or read on further down for the written descriptions and assessments of mag 14 bubbles and flavors.
Champagne Review of AR Lenoble mag 14 in Video
Mag 14 Champagne: Overall Review Notes & Tasting Impressions
With the bright and shiny yellow color featuring gold hues, this Champagne subtly shows it is something special, aged for 8+ years before release.
The aromatic profile is also very delicate, dominated by elegant nutty notes of macadamia and fresh hazelnut. Somewhat of a minty character makes it spicy to smell, while a myriad of subtle spices like nutmeg and cinnamon make for a complex smelling experience.
Add some lemon peel, white flowers, tomato leaf and fennel, with a touch of tropical fruit (is it mango and pineapple?) and you’re in for a broad spectrum of aromas on the nose, all delivered with finesse and restraint.
The palate is oily and coating at first revealing the generosity of the blend, before the minerality, typical of Cotes des Blancs Chardonnay comes in, cutting through with a crisp and vibrant acidity that tenses your taste buds.
The wine loosens up and broadens again towards the finish, with an explosion of generous flavors, the oily texture coming back generously, while fine phenolics make you salivate and add an edgy tease to the tasting.
This is a very dry Champagne, with a dosage at 5 grams per liter but it feels nearly bone-dry, zingy and mineral.
Yet, flavors are abundant on a crisp and opulent balance. This is a nutty sparkling, subtly buttery, with the freshness of zingy citrus fruit characters cutting through.
A multi-facetted, multi-layered Champagne you can spend minutes and minutes analyzing and enjoying, being surprised at every sip, at every second through the tasting experience.
Civilized, round and soft at first, it shows intense character, and an interesting polished rusticity from the mid-palate on.
A fascinating wine refined and complex, and one that gives you the impression you’re tasting its true terroir. You sense the grapes, the vines, the chalky soil in there, delivered with the refinement of a high-class Champagne…