A musclebound marriage

Hebrart ‘Noces de Craie’ 2015 was a test for my schoolboy French. ”Nuptials of chalk” was my best guess, which seemed a bit weird.

Luckily I had upgraded my iPhone to iOS 14 last night and the upgrade included a machine translation app. Apple would not let me down! “Marriage of chalk”, it told me. Ho hum…

Consequently, I tried my schoolboy French on the back label and luckily I know enough wine terminology in French for all to become clear.

‘Noces de Craie’ is a blend of five lieux-dits (named sites) that have chalk-bedded soils. These are all in the commune of Ay so it is perhaps not surprising that these are all planted with Pinot Noir. The Pinot from these five sites is blended (‘married’, as the flowery name puts it) to create Hebrart’s ‘Noces de Craie’ Champagne.

This is a 2015 vintage wine and it has spent a whopping great 48 months on its dead yeast lees, so was only bottled in December of last year. I worry that this is insufficient time on cork for a fizz to evolve into a finished drink. A far bigger worry is that I have no other fizz in the fridge to drink tonight, so let us pop and taste!

Hebrart Noces de Craie 2015, AyChampagne Blanc des Noirs ‘Noces de Craie’ Extra Brut, Ay, 2015, Marc Hebrart

What a nose! To say it had scale would be insulting the power and density of aromas present here. There are all the cold cocoa/bitter chocolate notes one gets on powerful Blanc des Noirs, but they are fresh and exciting, it is quite a thrill to smell!

The Hebrart Noces de Craie is not short on fruit either, with a myriad of fruity goodies all competing for your attention. There are raspberries in abundance, strawberries, red gooseberries, redcurrants and even blackberries all presenting smartly but with scale.

I expected the nose to be pretty large scale, I must admit. 2015 was a warm vintage and the luxuriant fruit shows the five parcels of vines in the Noces de Craie received many a glisk in this vintage.

I think that if one has experience of Blanc des Noirs grown on chalky soil, one can detect a similar type of minerality on the nose. I find it hard to describe but let us go with: there is a grippy, edgy set of aromas on this Noces de Craie that keep the scale of this nose from being too blowsy.

Another aroma, that some people would claim one cannot smell but I have a milver in Thomas Blach in this regard, so I feel confident in saying this – it smells like it is going to be pretty god-damned acidic.

I cannot claim omnividience with the involute panoply of scintillating aromas displayed by the Hebrart Noces de Craie, trying to percribate would be a naufragie of an exercise. I will try to encapsulate the main sensation one gets from sniffing this analytically. This is a bloody big, remarkably vinous Champagne from a ripe vintage that has its evident muscles prevented from Hulk-like clothes ripping by a potent combination of serious minerality and (I bet) impressive acidity.

The palate follows this pattern. It is a big, muscly, mainly wine. Very vinous, very powerful, very fruity, but perfectly balanced and totally harmonious. It is a Jonny Wilkinson of a wine, strong and tough yet nimble enough to dance across your palate or kick a lambent ball of acidity right at your uvula.

The chocolatey/cocoa aromas do not map to bitter flavours on the palate. they are polished by the warmth of the vintage, as are the fruit flavours, many of which seem positively exotic, filling one’s mouth full of powerful tastes.

However, the acidity and a firm chalky grip on the finish make this big wine-y Champagne a positive delight of refinement and harmony. The finish just goes on and on, thrilling your palate with shades and sprites of the Noces de Craie, that just leave one wanting more! More!! MORE!!

If this is made in magnums why was I foolish enough to fail to procure one? One of my first handful of 2015 Champagnes and this will remain right up there with the best, as I gleefully drink every 2015 I can lay my hands on.