Monday, April 28, 2008

Marc Hébrart Spécial Club and, well, something else...

I’ve gotten a sneak preview of a pair of future releases from Champagne Marc Hébrart—they won’t be on the market until sometime in 2009, but they’re interesting to compare anyway.

The 2004 Spécial Club is, as usual, 60 percent pinot noir from Mareuil-sur-Aÿ and 40 percent chardonnay from Chouilly and Oiry, all made in stainless steel. Jean-Paul Hébrart notes that it’s lighter in body than the 2002, due to the 2004 vintage’s higher yields and lighter concentration of fruit. It’s certainly much more open than the 2002 was at the same stage, with a forward, friendly fruitiness and broad richness of aroma, pinned down by zesty acidity. Succulently, invitingly delicious, it shows a fine and harmonious structure, and promises to develop well in the mid-term.

The second wine is a new cuvée from the 2004 vintage that will be released sometime next year, but Jean-Paul hasn’t found a name for it yet. (It’s surprising how difficult it can be to release a new cuvée in Champagne, amidst copyrights and litigation and people trademarking the color yellow and all.) This wine comes from the same parcels as the Club, the same old vines (averaging about 40 years or so) and it’s blended in the same proportion (60 pinot noir and 40 chardonnay), only it’s fermented entirely in wood. It’s very enlightening to taste the two alongside each other—this wine is not necessarily larger in body, but it’s deeper in tone, finer in texture and more complex, enlivened and enriched by the oak though not at all dominated by it. It’s at once more detailed in aroma and more tightly restrained, needing some air to demonstrate its real depth. I expect it will be more forthcoming after another year or so of age, and I’m looking forward to seeing the final results.

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