Champagne Laherte Frères is based in the village of Chavot, a ten minute drive south-ish of Epernay. The estate was established in 1889 by Jean-Baptiste Laherte and was expanded incrementally over the generations. The estate is named after sixth generation brothers Christian and Thierry, though I couldn’t confirm if they were the first to make the big leap from growing grapes to making their own Champagne. Thierry’s son Aurélien has been a part of the firm for the last fifteen years.
Laherte’s 11.38 hectares of vineyards are covered in detail on their website. The majority are in villages of the Coteaux Sud d’Epernay, split 4.22 ha planted to Chardonnay, 3.88 to Pinot Meunier and others 1.18 ha. A further 1.48 of Pinot Meunier is in the Vallée de la Marne and 0.62 of Chardonnay on the Côte des Blancs. They have identified 75 different plots which are vinified separately; 80% of the wines are fermented and matured in wood barrels or casks.
Since 2011 Laherte has also bought in grapes from growers who farm around 4 hectares in the Montagne de Reims, Vallée de la Marne and Côte des Blancs; of course these growers share the same philosophy.
This is our way of celebrating the terroir: by respecting differences, promoting uniqueness, and letting the soil express itself.
In his excellent book on Grower Champagne “Bursting Bubbles”, Robert Walters makes some excellent point about the style and quality of Grower Champagnes in general. Firstly, many who make Champagne under the Récoltant-Manipulant (RM) label are simply much smaller versions of the big Houses; it is those who focus on their terroir and allowing their wines to express it that can make great Grower Champagnes. Secondly, small producers who take such care but also buy a small amount of grapes from close contacts – and therefore have the Négociant-Manipulant (NM) label – can also make excellent terroir Champagnes.
Aurelien Laherte was noted as a promising grower in Bursting Bubbles, but of course as the firm now buys in grapes they are classed as NM. Walters specifically mentions Jacquesson & Fils as an example of terroir focused small houses, but I believe that Laherte Frères would also qualify for that accolade.
Laherte make a large number of different wines, grouped into three different types. The wines in blue are reviewed below.
- Ultradition: Brut, Brut Rosé, Brut Blanc de Blancs
- Special & Original Cuvées: Ultradition Extra Brut, Blanc de Blancs Brut Nature, Rosé de Meunier Extra Brut
- Terroir Fundamentals Cuvées: Les Beaudiers (Rosé de Saignée Meunier), Les Longues Voyes (Blanc de Noirs 1er Cru), Les 7 (all 7 Champagne grapes in a “solera” system), Les Vignes d’Autrefois (Old Vine Meunier), Les Grandes Crayères (Vintage Blanc de Blancs)
Champagne Laherte Frères “Ultradition” Extra Brut NV
This is a blend of the three main varieties: 60% Pinot Meunier (60%), Chardonnay (30%) and Pinot Noir (10%). 40% of the total is from reserve wines which are kept in barrel and add complexity. Malolactic fermentation is blocked for a portion of the base wines to give a mix of roundness and freshness. Those base wines also spend six months on their lees while maturing.
Ultradition Extra Brut has an amazing nose of lifted floral, citrus and pear aromas; so lifted, in fact, that you feel like you’ve got the elevator to the top of the Empire State Building. In the mouth it pulls off the trick of being both creamy and fresh, briochey and citrusy, with a lively mousse and a satisfying, fresh finish.
- ABV: 12.5%
- RS: 4.5 g/L
- RRP: €55
- Stockists: Sheridans; SIYPS; Mitchell & Son; Green Man Wines; Fallon & Byrne
Champagne Lahertes Frères Rosé de Meunier Extra Brut NV
This is a “Rosé d’Assemblage”, incorporating both saignée and pressée techniques. Made solely from old vine Pinot Meunier, it consists of 30% macerated wine, 10% red wine and 60 % white wine. 40% of the later is from reserve wines aged in barrels. Vinification is the same as for the Ultradition Extra Brut, though dosage is even lower at 2.5 g/L.
The nose is full of juicy red fruits that leap out of the glass. On the palate they are further defined as strawberry, cherry and raspberry. The dosage is low, even for an Extra Brut, but the quality of the fruit and the fact they are picked when fully ripe means that more is not required. The fruits are so fresh and vivid that, if tasted blindfolded, you’d be peeking to see if any berries were floating in your glass.
- ABV: 12.5%
- RS: 2.5 g/L
- RRP: €62
- Stockists: Sheridans; SIYPS; Mitchell & Son; Green Man Wines; Fallon & Byrne; 64 Wine
Champagne Lahertes Frères Blancs de Blancs “Les Grandes Crayères” 2014
This is a single vineyard, single variety, single vintage wine made from one of Laherte’s best sites. As you might be able to guess from the name “Les Grandes Crayères” the vines are grown on chalky soils. Not in the Côte des Blancs, however, but rather in their home village of Chavot where the chalk in some plots is only 20 cm down. Unlike the other cuvées above, MLF is totally blocked for this wine to preserve acidity as the wine ages over the years.
The Champagne geeks among you might wonder what the single variety is; for the vast majority of Blanc de Blancs Champagnes this would automatically be Chardonnay, but when a producer makes a wine with all seven permitted varieties (five white, two black) then it could be any one of five. But it’s Chardonnay!
And what a Chardonnay! The nose has layers of flowers, lime and toast plus a little candied peel. In the mouth it is creamy yet fresh and refined, with mineral notes and a certain tanginess. This is an amazing wine that could be nothing else than a Blanc de Blancs Champagne.