Tucked up against the Chavot vineyards in the Coteaux Sud d’Épernay, resides Champagne Laherte Frères – one of the more interesting and unique champagne houses I have visited during my time in the region. Dating back to 1889, Champagne Laherte Frères have seven hectares of vineyard land and purchase approximately four hectares worth of fruit from other growers who share the same passion and commitment to the environment in their farming practices.
I had the opportunity to meet with 7th generation winemaker and vigneron, Aurélien Laherte who walked me up to one of their important vineyards and explained the Laherte family philosophy, “We have a hands off approach to winemaking but we touch, feel and taste in the vineyard. Approximately 80% of our vineyards are farmed biodymanically and every year we transition another parcel to this method of farming. Our vines are incredibly important to us and that is where I prefer to spend my time – watching the development of each vine.”
Champagne Laherte Frères is one of the very small amount of champagne producers who grow all permitted Champagne grape varieties: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Meunier, Petit Meslier (of increasing importance to the house), Fromenteau (Pinot Gris), Arbanne and Pinot Blanc. I was told about this champagne house within the first month of living here when a friendly Belgian man who sat next to us at an Épernay restaurant said their ‘Les 7’ champagne is one of his favourites in the world.
Another very unique aspect of Champagne Laherte Frères is the use of oak in crafting their champagnes – 80% of their wines are fermented and matured in wood. With 350 oak barrels and 6 casks, they practice plot by plot vinification to craft their ‘terroir wines’. Their cuverie (fermenting room) is positioned just above a natural, subterrainian river which keeps the humidity at a perfect level for the barrels. Aurélien Laherte explains, “The river that flows underneath this room enables us to have a specific terroir and flavour in our cave that is realized in our wines”.
Tasting Champagne Laherte Frères:
Champagne Laherte Frères Ultradition Brut – making up 45% of their production, this champagne is a blend of 60% Meunier/30% Chardonnay/10% Pinot Noir. It has a great mouthfeel and is as appealing as it is approachable. Using 40% reserve wine with the base coming from 2016, flavours of honey, nut, apricot and fresh berry are all present. Integrated.
Champagne Laherte Frères Blanc de Blancs Brut Nature – crafted with 100% Chardonnay from 35 year old vines, this is one electric champagne. With a base from the 2016 vintage and 50% reserve wine added to the blend, I love the salinity and linear appeal of this champagne with no dosage added. If there was a personality of this house – I would say that this wine shines in its’ balance and finesse. Energetic.
Champagne Laherte Frères ‘Les Grandes Crayères’ Blanc de Blancs 2014 – another outstanding example of what this champagne house is capable of! 100% Chardonnay made from one parcel in Chavot where ‘Campanian’ chalk is present. Good minerality, expressive fruit with a flirtation of hazelnut – this champagne is a finessed and impressive champagne. Elegant.
Champagne Laherte Frères ‘Les Vignes d’Autrefois’ Vieilles Vignes de Meunier 2014 – this champagne pays hommage to the region of Chavot and the importance of Meunier. Crafted with 100% Meunier from vines planted in 1947 and 1953, this champagne is voluptuous with round berry notes topped with a gentle walnut finish. Lush.
Champagne Laherte Frères ‘Les Longues Voyes’ Blanc de Noirs 1er Cru 2014 – a very structured and bold champagne made with 100% Pinot Noir. With a dosage of 4 grams, this champagne rests on its’ lees for 18 months imparting complexity and an intrinsic flavour profile. Powerful.
Champagne Laherte Frères ‘Les 7’ Solera Extra Brut – the wait to taste this champagne was 100% worth it! An incredible and interesting champagne blended with the seven approved grape varieties from a parcel in Chavot that Thierry Laherte planted in 2003. The current release is a blend of wines from 2005 – 2015: 10% Pinot Gris, 18% Chardonnay, 15% Petit Meslier, 14% Pinot Noir, 17% Pinot Blanc, 18% Meunier, and 8% Arbanne. The nose is harmonious and bright as is the palate – full of white peach, apricot, jasmine, field strawberries and apple. Incredible.
Champagne Laherte Frères ‘Les Empreintes’ Extra Brut 2012 – a blend of 50% Pinot Noir and 50% Chardonnay (1/3 of which is Chardonnay Muscat). The ‘fingerprints’ of this champagne come from two parcels in Chavot that are farmed with the utmost respect to the environment. The balance is as close to perfection as I have ever tasted. Excellent.
Champagne Laherte Frères ‘Rosé de Meunier’ Extra Brut – 100% Meunier from three different fermentations. Ripe yet crispy with notes of rhubarb, candy cola and crushed strawberry. Quite a delightful and charming rosé! Refreshing.
Champagne Laherte Frères Rosé de Saignée Meunier ‘Les Beaudiers’ – my love affair with this style of rosé continues with probably the best example I’ve tasted to date. Made with precision and care with old vine Meunier from Chavot, its stunning colour comes from 12 – 14 hours of maceration with the skins. This is a serious champagne that demands respect and admiration. Beautiful.