Blog: Producer Newsletters

  • Our First Northern Rhone!

    November 21st, 2012

    Our First Northern Rhone!
    Laurent Habrard, Gervans, Saint Joseph & Croze Hermitage
    Laurent Habrard
    Natural winemakers believe that truly terroir-driven wines are those that take the circumstances they are given by nature – soil composition, sun exposure, microclimate, vintage characteristics, etc – and simply allow them to express themselves through the wine. Many take this philosophy a step farther – going beyond just the wine to the manner in which they conduct their business. This is where Domaine Harbrard is making a big statement. They don’t just talk the talk but are making huge strides to walk the walk.


    Looking south from the Hermitage hill
    For Laurent Habrard, the fifth generation winemaker for this estate, it is not just a winemaking matter but also an ecological and environmental concern. In 2008 he began the conversion to organic viticulture. The following year, the domaine transitioned to wind and solar energy production and at the same time, took great pains to make the facility much more energy efficient. They also set up a rainwater recovery system. Not a big fan of oak – “I’m not a carpenter, I’m a wine producer. My work is not to produce and sell wines resembling oaky tea, ” – Harbrard replaces wood vats with concrete tanks when they are no longer useful.


    Laurent’s horse in his Saint Joseph vineyard


    Each of the five generations of Habrard winegrowers in the northern Rhône has brought change. Originally located in the Ardèche, the third generation, Louis and his wife, Madelaine, moved across the Rhône River to Gervans in Crôzes-Hermitage. One of their sons, Marcel, married a local girl, Marie Thérèse Crôzes in 1968. At the time, she was making the wine for the Habrards.
    Dining al fresco on the Hermitage hill during Caravan Buyer Trip 2012 last May


     In 1985, Marcel and Marie Thérèse built a winery operation nearby. Laurent entered the picture in 1998 and has lead the new winery into its current era. Having studied in Beaune, Laurent was up on the latest technology but over time he has taken his knowledge and gone back to basics, eschewing chemicals and farming the land in a manner that was similar to his ancestors in the early 20th century.
    Village of Gervans on the Rhone river, on our way to dinner on the Hermitage hill

    The bulk of the land, 14 hectares (close to 35 acres), is in Crôzes-Hermitage. This also accounts for 90% of Laurent’s output, a total of about 6500 cases. Both red and white wine is made in Crôzes Hermitage with the white grapes grown loess soil and the red on rocky granite.
    Village of Gervans, 4 kilometers north of Tain
    Louis Habrard bought less than half a hectare (1.16 acre) in Hermitage in 1971 from Charles de Gaulle’s son-in-law. This miniscule plot has 100-year-old Marsanne vines. More recently, Habrard acquired a slightly larger parcel in St. Joseph (.6 of a hectare or 1.5 acres), which made its debut vintage in 2006. All of the grapes are hand harvested, not just a choice but also a necessity considering the steep angles of the many of the slopes in all three appellations.
    Dining al fresco on the Hermitage hill during Caravan Buyer Trip 2012 last May 


    If there is one word that describes the Habrard wines, it is purity. The second would be balance. Laurent’s dedication to the land result in wines that revel in the terroir, showing classic expressions of Syrah, Marsanne and Roussanne. Brand new to our portfolio, it is pleasure to share them with our customers.

    Domaine Laurent Habrard Crôzes-Hermitage Blanc, 2010 
    Marsanne 80%, Roussanne 20%
    Some of the vines that go into Habrard’s Crôzes Blanc are up to 80 years old. Vinified in temperature-controlled tanks for 20 days, the wine is then transferred to older barrels for ten months. Rich yet balanced by vibrant acidity, this wine has a typical Marsanne banana-like character with layers of crème brulée, nuts, butter, brioche and minerals.
    Domaine Laurent Habrard Crôzes-Hermitage Rouge, 2008 

    Syrah 100%
    The 2008 vintage was to say the least, challenging, with rains coming on and off from April through the beginning of September. Purists, like Habrard, just go with it and he made a fantastic wine that is perfect for those who like their Syrah on the leaner side. While this wine might seem light on fruit to some, it has intense minerality, loads of hickory like smoke, oil cured black olives, licorice and spice.


    Domaine Laurent Habrard Crôzes-Hermitage Rouge, 2009 
    Syrah 100%
    2009 was almost the opposite of 2008. It was very hot and dry. The quandary was having enough acidity to match the ripe fruit and luckily, Habrard’s wine does.  Like the ’08, this Crôzes has signature smoke and black olive aromas but there is more tannin and a range of fruit from blueberries to grapefruit.
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