Like many other producers I had know the wines of Laherte Freres for a number of years before I eventually got round to visiting. I had always found their wines well made but I had never that ‘moment’ with them. So it was with amazement that I stood in front of Aurelien at Terres et Vins, a tasting held in Reims once a year during Champagne week, trying Les Empreintes 2010. This wine has everything. A touch of brioche, juicy fruit, wonderful salinity and superb balance. I was transfixed. And then I tried the Les 7!
Aurelien runs this NM with his father Thierry and uncle Christian. They are strictly an NM but only buy from their family and close friends, a practice seen more often these days. The estate was founded in Chavot 1889 by Jean-Baptiste Laherte and expanded over 7 generations. With vineyards now from Chavot, Épernay, Vaudancourt, Moussy, Mancy and Morangis in the South of Epernay; Vertus and Voipreux in the Cote des Blancs; and Le Breuil and Boursault in the Vallee de Marne they own 11 hectares with vineyards split into 75 parcels. As we stand at the northern tip of the built up part of Chavot we look towards Epernay and across the North facing vineyards of Laherte. He explains with great detail the complexities of the soil that cut from West-East. 10 different soil types in the space of 500 metres. Amazing. With Aurelien at the reins he is Looking for balance between the soil, the vine and the production method. He practices a number of focused techniques that include; regular ploughing to loosen and air soils to trigger biological and physical mechanisms necessary to nurture the vine stocks; plant infusions to improve natural defence systems; high foliage to ensure high maturity through photosynthesis; selective and planed pruning work and treatments in order to strengthen vine stocks. In the winery he vinifies each plot separately using a 4000kg press. He works with gravity throughout.
During the last ten years Aurelien has slowly been taking over the production and the cuvee options have increased significantly as he enjoys the process of finding the balance between the soil, the vines and his production methods.
Blanc de Blancs Brut Nature is made from parcels in Chavot, Vaudancourt, and Epernay. Vinified in foudres and barrels with partial malolactic and uses 50% reserve wines. The 2012/13 blend disgorged in July 2015 showed a lazerlike focus and an impressive chalky backbone. Very dry but not austere.
Ultradition Extra Brut is made using a blend of 60% Meunier, 30% Chardonnay and 10% Pinot Noir from across the Côteaux sud d’Epernay, Vallée de la Marne and Côte des Blancs. The juice is vinified in foudre (20%), steel (20%) and barrels (60%). The wine has 40% reserve held in barrels, undergoes partial malolactic fermentation and has 4.5g/ltr of sugar. It hits you with a smokey, chalkiness on the nose. The palate shows impressive complexity, salinity and precision.
Les Vignes d’Autrefois is made from selected old plots planted between 1947 and 1953. In Chavot they use Les Charmées, Les Noelles, La Potote, Les Rouges Maisons. Sitting on Clay and silty soils, they are quite deep, with flint and small stones. The subsoils are chalky. In Mancy they use Les Hautes Norgeailles, Les Bas Putroux which sit on Clay soils with a small silt stratum on the surface and again a chalky subsoil. Fermentation occurs in Burgundy barrels with regular stirring of the lees. No malolactic fermentation. The wine is only produced from one year. The nose is driven by an incredible minerality. The palate delivers plenty of beautiful fruit and superb richness and acidity.
Les Longues Voyes Blanc de Noirs is made using grapes bought from a friend. He prefers not to mention who that ‘friend’ is but I can tell you they produce good grapes! The wine tasted was a pure 2012 and showed notes of chalk, sand and a juicy palate. The structure is more vinous yet so delicate and creamy on the finish. A real wine but in a delicate way.
Les Empreintes, is a pure Chavot made from 50% Chardonnay and 50% Pinot Noir, and a single year. The Chardonnay fascinatingly is 1/3 Chardonnay muscaté from the vineyard Les Chemins d’Epernay. It sits on Clay soils with a little silt stratum on the surface it sits on chalky subsoil. The plot was planted in 1957. The Pinot Noir is from Les Rouges Maisons. The soil is deep with clay, flints and schist sitting on chalky subsoils. The plot was planted in 1983. Natural fermentation occurs in Burgundy barrels and held for 6 months. No malolactic fermentation is allowed to occur. 4g/ltr. The wine has everything for me. A touch of brioche, saline and a juicy, fruity palate. Superb acidity on the finish. The balance and weight across the palate is superb and the finish endless.
Les 7 is made from one plot in Chavot planted by Thierry Laherte in 2003. 10% Fromenteau , 8% Arbanne, 14% Pinot Noir, 18% Chardonnay, 17% Pinot Blanc, 18% Pinot Meunier and 15% Petit Meslier. A true kaleidoscope of a wine in every sense. Natural alcoholic fermentation is made in old Burgundy barrels, at least 10 years old, with regular stirring of the lees and no malolactic fermentation. The wine is held in barrel for 6 months and blended from several years starting from 2005 where 60% from each year is added to 40% of the solera. It shows a surprising weight on the palate and amazing acidity, which you would expect, but in such an impressive way. Lovely floral notes, orange pithe and superb structure.
Les Millesimes Extra Brut 2006 is the last of his father’s wines. 85% Chardonnay from Chavot and Epernay, on limestone soil and chalky subsoils, South exposition. 15% Pinot Meunier from Chavot, Mancy and Vaudancourt. Soil mainly clay with some silt on chalky subsoils. East exposition. Natural fermentation in barrels, 40% new oak and 4.5g/ltr. A golden hue greets you in the glass. Notes of fudge balance with citrus on the nose. The palate is a lot more lateral than his other cuvees (clearly the difference between Aurelien and his father). The finish lacks the precision of the other wines.
Rose de Meunier Extra Brut is made by 30% maceration, 10% red wine addition, 60% White Meunier. 2.5g/ltr. The wine tasted was 2012/13 base and had a surprising juiciness with wonderful rich and aromatic notes throughout.
Les Beaudiers Vieilles Vignes de Meunier is pure Meunier from Chavot with plots planted in 1953, 1958, and 1965 sitting on clay and silty soils with flint and stone on chalk subsoils. Destemming and maceration for approximately 12 hours occurs depending on the year. Alcoholic fermentation occurs with natural yeasts in barrels, no malolactic. Low dosage. The wine taste was pure 2012. Toast and chewy forest fruits. Very soft entry and you are hit with a dry vinosity on the midpalate. The structure is serious but you feel some time in the bottle is needed to bring it together oh and perhaps some food!
You really feel that throughout the range Aurelien has got the balance just right.
There is one thing for sure. I will be following his work over the next few years as he cements his ‘grand plan’. His wines rock and I feel he is just getting started…
Village: Chavot Courcourt
Region: La Vallee De La Marne
Contact: Aurelien Laherte
Cuvée De Prestige: Les 7
Year Founded: 1889
Style: Focused, linear, terroir driven, high acidity
Terroir: Chavot, Épernay, Vaudancourt, Moussy, Mancy, Morangis, Vertus, Voipreux, Breuil, Boursault
Recent Tasting Notes from Laherte Frères