Jean-Paul Hébrart took over the operations of Marc Hébrart Champagne in the Vallée de la Marne from his father Marc in 1997. This estate is not exactly new: Jean-Paul’s father has been producing champagne under the Marc Hébrart name since 1964 and has been a member of the Special Club since 1984. Hébrart farms 14 hectares of vines on 65 different sites in 6 villages. His Pinot Noir comes from the great 1er Cru vineyards of Mareuil-sur-Aÿ, Avenay, Val d’Or and Bisseuil and his Chardonnay from the Grand Crus Chouilly and Oiry in the Côte des Blancs. Each parcel is always vinified separately in glass lined stainless steel and ceramic tanks. He is slowly phasing out the ceramic as it is more difficult to control the temperature. Hébrart is also experimenting barrel fermentation and indigenous yeast fermentation for some of his older vine parcels.
Using these new techniques Jean-Paul has made an alternative Téte de Cuvee (2004 vintage dated) called Rive Gauche-Rive Droite, named for the sites on both sides of the Marne that comprise the blend. These old vine parcels are fermented and aged in 205 liter four year old barrique (without battonage) before being bottled sur latté. Jean-Paul hand selects grapes, uses a Bucher press, and is experimenting with fermentation in petite cuvee. Hébrart doesn’t block malolactic fermentation and does all remuage by hand.
Peter Liem writes of Champagne Hébrart on Champgneguide.net: “Hébrart’s wines have a broad appeal: if you like to think about your wines, they’re intellectually engaging enough to satisfy you; on the other hand, if you’re just looking to drink, they’re simply delicious. The wines are full and generous without being weighty, complex and soil-driven without being demanding. Overall, the entire range is of consistently high quality, and represents excellent value for the money.”
Hébrart represents a departure from the other producers in this portfolio, for Jean-Paul’s wines marry the top Pinot Noir sites of the Vallée de la Marne with Grand Cru Chardonnay sites in the Côte des Blancs. More similar to the philosophy of Gimonnet than to that of Larmandier-Bernier, Hébrart’s wines are buoyant and lithe with deft integrations of minerality and juicy fruit.
This is his nod to the old school. Another Coeur de Cuvée, made in barrels, natural yeast, unfiltered and never cold stabilized. It’s 50% PN Aÿ (Pruche, Cheuzelles, Longchamp, Chauffour) and 50% CH old-vines from Chouilly, Avize and Oiry (Justice, Montaigu, Les Robarts). The Avize parcel is new for Jean-Paul. Deg 10/2014
He feels the wood regime is the best homage to the Grand Cru material, and time may prove him right. When young, the wood is “expressive” after the Club, but the wine is about as fine as wood-aged Champagne can be, and it’s less oaky than recent bottles of Bollinger NV. Less vanilla-brioche than Vilmart, less plump than Billiot’s “Julie,” less mealy than the (very fine wines of) Roger Pouillon; it has his scrupulous delineation and the rectilinear nature of 2010, but the sandalwood and honey-mushroom notes in the empty glass are quite attractive. Why’s your glass empty? ~Terry Theise
Deg 7/2015. 2011 expresses as sassafrass and fennel-seed, not as pyrazine. In any case it’s not one of Hebrart’s great Clubs but it is one of the better ‘11s. A scrappy and aggressive wine, and atypical if you formed your impression from the ’08 or ’06. A Coeur de cuvée, it’s 35% Mareuil old-vines PN (from Faubourg D’Enfer and Croix Blanche), 20% PN Aÿ (from Cheuzelles and Pierre Robert), 25% Mareuil old vines CH (from Beauregard and Ramonette) and finally 20% CH from Oiry and Chouilly. ~Terry Theise
It means, lyrically, “wedding of chalk,” and is the fruit of his passion for Pinot Noir. 44-year vines of massale selection, it hails from five parcels (Cheuzelle, Longchamp, Pruche, Chauffour, Pierre Robert) and is also a coeur de cuvée. It will be available in October 2016, and there won’t be much of it. I tasted it blind, and noted—this wine is strong, with a back-palate zing of chalk and huge front-palate richness; it’s almost obdurately long (it was then revealed) and AH, that explains it, it’s all Aÿ. It shows a deep sorghum maltiness and profoundly earthy mineral, almost chocolatey. The final dosage is pending but will be Extra Brut; this will not be made every year, and the next one won’t be until vintage-2015. Don’t y’all buy it out; I need me a few bottles.
The assemblage is daunting. 50% CH from Mareuil, vintage 2013. 43.5% PN from Mareuil shared between 2012 and 2011. 6.5% Mareuil PN as still wine vinified in wood, vintage 2012. Deg Oct 2015. This is a tic rounder than last year’s; sports the prettiest fragrance, rose hips and (sweet!) rhubarb; the palate is quite round, more vinous, but with the tiniest scratch of phenolics. As always it’s a wine that seamlessly melds sensuality with cerebrality. ~Terry Theise