TN A visit to Champagne Marc Hebrart (2018)

Discussion in 'UK Wine Forum' started by Steven Pritchard, Mar 19, 2018.

  1. It is no secret that I am a huge fan of Champagne Marc Hebrart, and an even bigger fan of Jean-Paul himself. Here we have a rare winemaker who possesses not only passion and intelligence for his art, but who is also disarmingly honest. His attention to detail is astonishing.

    My visit to Mareuil-sur-Ay is always one of the highlights of the Champagne year for me, I learn so much every time I visit, Jean-Paul has surely forgotten more about the finer points of Champagne than I will ever know. And sadistically, I enjoy the feeling of being “put firmly back in my place”. It forces me to dive deeper into the detail, and on to new discoveries.

    From Vineyard to the Glass

    Jean-Paul continues to build upon his extensive portfolio of vineyards, with a diverse array of terroirs ranging from Chardonnay in Avize, Chouilly, Oiry in the Cote des Blancs, across the Marne valley through Dizy and Ay, terminating at the domain with his core holdings at Mareuil-sur-Ay.

    Vinification is mainly stainless steel (although oak is used for the “Rive Gauche, Rive Droite” blend). Jean-Paul likes to use MCR for the dosage (rather than cane sugar), as he finds it more neutral and less oxidative than a traditional “liqueur”.

    The Champagnes are made in a fresh, precise, fruit expressive style, spiced with a detailed minerality. Their lightness belies their density, these wines are so flavoursome and easy to drink, I catch myself “drinking” and not “tasting” when attending a degustation!

    There are numerous non-vintage cuvees, with the highlights being the creamy Blanc de Blancs, and the subtle rose’ (this now being a large part of Jean-Paul’s production). These wines represent fabulous bargains.

    The quality and complexity take a step up with the vintage selection, starting with the Special Club. Usually around 55% Pinot Noir (Ay, and Mareuil-sur-Ay), and 45% Chardonnay (Chouilly, and Oiry), seamlessly integrated and superbly balanced. Fragrant, lithe fruit with demanding potential (available in magnum!).

    The aptly named “Rive Gauche – Rich Droite” indicates the wines origin from both sides of the Marne river: 50% Chardonnay from Avize, Chouilly, and Oiry (Cote des Blancs), and 50% Pinot Noir from Ay. Vinified and in oak, without filtration and cold stabilisation, fermented using indigenous yeasts. A fine, and complex wine, it can be a little bit stubborn when younger, with its neutral, dry extract. Wait a few years for the creaminess to emerge!

    The “Noce de Craie” (translates as “Wedding of Chalk!”) is a new wine to the Hebrart range, a Blanc de Noir made in the best vintages using only a massale selection of Pinot Noir from Ay. For the inaugural release (2012), this Coeur de Cuvee was fermented in stainless steel, using fruit sourced from five parcels of varying soil type (hence the name). An unusually understated expression of Ay, sublime walnut with finely etched, chalky Pinot fruit without verbosity. The next vintage will be 2015 (probably released in 2020).

    Next year will see the release of a new wine: Clos le Leon (a small walled vineyard in Dizy). The “vin clair” for 2014 and 2015 were both superb, 2019 cannot come soon enough!

    Tasting Notes (2018 Collection)

    I'll add on a few more TNs for the NV's over the next few days, so watch this space.

    35% PN from Mareuil-sur-Ay. Old vines. Parcels: Faubourg D'enfer, Croix Blanche, Pruche.
    20% PN from Ay. Parcels: Cheuzelles, Pierre Robert, Le Leon.
    25% CH from Mareuil-sur-Ay. Old vines. Parcels: Beauregard, Ramonette, Buisson Saint Loup.
    20% CH from Oiry & Chouilly.
    Stainless Steel, Coeur de Cuvee. Dosage 6.5 g/l (MCR, no SO2).

    The 2012 has certainly moved on in the last 12 months, the nose has plenty of dense fruit, but the palate has gained some weight with an emerging peachiness. Still a baby, best to drink: 2022-2028. (Score: 92/100, Potential: 94/100)

    30% PN from Mareuil-sur-Ay. Old vines. Parcels: Faubourg D'enfer, Croix Blanche, Pruche. Cotes.
    25% PN from Ay. Parcels: Cheuzelles, Pierre Robert, Le Leon.
    35% CH from Mareuil-sur-Ay. Old vines. Parcels: Beauregard, Ramonette, Buisson Saint Loup.
    10% CH from Oiry & Chouilly.
    Stainless Steel, Coeur de Cuvee. Dosage 6.5 g/l (MCR, no SO2).

    On paper, 2013 was similar to 2012, with a combination of high acidity, and high potential alcohol. But with late flowering and a September / October harvest, Champagnes from 2013 have a minerality and freshness that reminds me of 2008.

    The Hebrart 2013 special club is especially fine, with its throttled back aromatics and desirable austerity. This wine will certainly take a while to show its hand, but I have no doubts that given time, it will give the 2012 a run for its money. Drink: 2024-2032 (Score: 90/100, Potential: 94/100).

    50% PN from Ay. Parcels: Chaffour, Cheuzelles, Longchamp, Pruche.
    50% CH from Avize, Chouilly, Oiry.
    Oak fermentation and aging, indigenous yeasts, no filtration, no cold stabilisation. Dosage 4 g/l (MCR, no SO2).

    Jean-Paul regrets not using an extra couple of grams of sugar in the dosage for this first batch (see what I mean about honesty), I do agree that this wine feels somewhat muted on the finish, although perversely may be the better bet with regards to age-ability. On the nose we have a hint of what is to come, with ripe, slightly exotic fruit, but the palate is so tightly wound. Expect some oak fuelled fireworks in the medium term. Drink: 2020-2028 (Score: 91/100, Potential: 95/100).


    Reflecting on 2017

    Champagne was no different to other wine regions in experiencing a difficult springtime. Severe frosts left the vignerons facing an awkward year, but nature being its precocious self compensated with a burst of fine weather during the earlier part of the summer! Even though August was rather wet, by early September it looked as though a miracle vintage was on the cards. But what nature gives it can take away: rain began falling again half way through the harvest. In concert with the elevated temperature, Botrytis became established in the unpicked grapes.

    Chardonnay was the best variety by far (primarily because Chardonnay was picked early before the defining weather event), so expect to see some excellent Blanc de Blancs vintage cuvees being made in the most unexpected places!

    Tasting vin clair is an eye opening experience (and not because of the acidity, that would be better described as eye popping). Jean-Paul lined up three Chardonnays for me this year: Chouilly (Montaigu), Dizy (Clos Le Leon), Mareuil-sur-Ay (Beauregard, Ramonette). After tasting the component vin clair, Jean-Paul performed an ad-hoc assemblage of all three, to give me a rough idea of the finished blend for a potential Blanc de Blancs Special Club 2017!

    I use a five-star scoring system for vin clair, when tasting such raw wines it is hard to be anything but approximate.


    Chouilly (Montaigu)

    Montaigu is one of the best lieu dits in Chouilly. Its fruit possesses firmness and structure (as well as ripeness), something lacking from the often simple, and generous character from other areas of this Cru.

    All chalk and citrus on the attack, with the lingering line of acidity just dropping off at the finish. Perhaps lacking the weight of a top vintage. ***

    Dizy (Clos Le Leon)

    Linear, complex, medium weight, harmonious with a long finish. Fine acidity. ****

    Mareuil-sur-Ay (Beauregard, Ramonette)

    Nicely weighted, good structure with some depth. ***

    Special Club Vintage 2017
    (approximately: 50% Clos Le Leon, 15-20% Mareuil-sur-Ay (Beauregard, Ramonette), 30-35% Chouilly (Montaigu)

    Yellow fruits now emerging on the nose, the palate feels more complete, finely balanced, with obvious mid-palate density. This promises to be a delicious wine in 5 years time! ****
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2018
  2. Love the specimen bottle, no need to waste tasting time by leaving the table. :p
    Ian Black and Steven Pritchard like this.
  3. Many thanks - brilliant writeup, sir!

    As a matter of interest - what are your views on the non-addition of SO2 at dosage time? Are the wines sufficiently stable without it? I'm a wee bit concerned as I have a few of his slumbering, and maybe I ought to take a look at them.
    Steven Pritchard likes this.
  4. Thanks Ian! I keep threatening to do something "proper" with this Champagne thing. Be careful what you wish for! :p

    As you probably know I have a terrible neurosis when it comes to non-addition of SO2 to the liqueur. It IS possible to make wines that are stable without SO2 (although specific examples are in the minority), but it requires an incredibly safe pair of hands, so normally I would avoid such wines. Fortunately the entire farm to flute regime at Hebrart is meticulously managed, I've never had an issue with oxidation here (I still have bottles of 2008 Special Club that are drinking well).

    An originally disgorged magnum of 2005 Rive Gauche - Rive Droite tasted at last years "Artisans" exhibition was wonderfully fresh, complex and creamy with no signs of oxidation or Botrytis.
    Ian Black likes this.
  5. Lovely man, lovely wines, but then again you're preaching to the converted....

    Although the top wines are truly excellent, the real value here is in the "lesser" cuvées. Can never make up my mind which of them I love the most. I think maybe the Blanc de Blancs, but then again it's Monday and I'll probably have changed my mind by tomorrow. Apart from perhaps the Rosé they all benefit from a little bottle age, particularly the Reserve i.e. the conventional Pinot Noir/ Chardonnay blend. A couple of years in the cellar and it really starts to sing quite nicely. Interestingly no pinot meaner at this address, which is quite unusual for a Marne house.
    Steven Pritchard likes this.
  6. Pinot Meaner.

    I love spell checker!
    Alex Jagger likes this.
  7. :D :D
  8. Nicely conveyed on the wines and the man.
    Steven Pritchard likes this.
  9. I agree about the Rose', made with the intention of being ready to go. The '15 base is a real juicy mouthful. Typing up rest of my notes this evening.
  10. Steve thank you for the notes - it is always an education to visit him.

    The Rose is one of the few Rose Champagnes I find avoids any sign of a confected jammy note, so I hope the 15 continues that trend.
    Steven Pritchard likes this.
  11. Hi Ian,

    The '15 base is certainly voluptuous, but avoids being Jammy. The Chardonnay juice (55%) is all 2015, but the Pinot reserves (approx 38.5%) are from 2014/2013, with 6.5% red wine from 2014. All made from ripe vintages sure, and yet maintaining a light rose' style, without too much tannin, and not too much autolysis. Fruit to the fore! :)


  12. Steven,

    what a privilege being able to read about such visit.

    Thank you.
    Steven Pritchard likes this.
  13. Is it available in the UK? Winesearcher seems unable to locate anyone.
  14. Jim rest assured that an importer will pop up soon after reading the report...
  15. Wine Society often have the wines available.
  16. There is a fair bit of Hebrart in the UK Jim?
  17. Just checked again and actually nothing at all according to Wine-Searcher Pro. Very odd. Do you know who imports them?
  18. Jim,

    Do you have "auctions only" or another box selected?

    I'm seeing loads in WSPRO! :)


  19. Try just entering the word "Hebrart", Jim - there's quite a bit of it about.
    Jim Agar likes this.
  20. Easy to typo for Herbart, too...
  21. Yes that’s weird! Marc Hebrart produces zero but Hebrart on its own gives loads. Sorry and thanks.
    Steven Pritchard likes this.
  22. Steve, excellent and instructive. Thank you so much.
    Steven Pritchard likes this.
  23. Thanks for the great write up Steve - much appreciated.

    The Noce de Craie was easily in my top ten wines last year. I have been tempted to open another but I know the rest are worth waiting for.
    Steven Pritchard likes this.
  24. I had the blanc de blancs over the weekend and it seemed to me to have a very un-champagne like taste in that it came across as a white wine that had had gas added to it, as opposed to tasting like a champagne if you see what I'm getting at. I suspect it needs age but know nothing about Hebrart - can those who know the wines shed any light on this?

    ETA what are Jean-Paul's preferred champagne glasses Steve?!
  25. Hi Tom,

    Yes, Hebrart wines are primarily fruit driven, the autolysis is subtle, and yes, perhaps they behave a little more like a still wine. The BdB does pick up a biscuity edge after a few years in bottle (to make it more "champagne" like), but I do enjoy the fruit.

    JP serves in a Jamesse-type glass (although slightly more angular at the curve).



    P.S. More to the point: did you enjoy the Champagne?

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