Benoît Lahaye - Grand Cru Brut Nature NV
90% Pinot Noir, 10% Chardonnay
Certified Biodynamic, Certified Organic, No Sulfur Added, No Dosage
Montagne de Reims, Champagne, France
Imported by VOS
From the importer-
80% of the grapes come from Bouzy, and 20% from Ambonnay. The soil is brown chalk, with a planting density of 8,400 plants per hectare, on root-stock 41B. The vines average 35 years old and are pruned two ways: Cordon Royat and Chablis. The parcels are vinified separately. The wine is aged for an average of 30 months on the lees, with 1 or 2 stirring. The current release is a blend of 2011, 2012 and 2013 vintages. Bottled without filtration. Not all the bottles are disgorged at the same time. No Dosage. No addition of SO2. 500 cases produced and 200 magnums.
"Lahaye releases his non-vintage champagne as both a Brut and Brut Nature, but the Brut Nature is by far the more sought-after by those in the know. Based heavily on pinot noir, which can account for as much as 90 percent of the blend, it always includes a high percentage of reserve wines (sometimes as much as 50 percent), and is typically a blend of four-fifths Bouzy and one-fifth Ambonnay. Lahaye credits the balance and complexity of his Brut Nature to the elevated ripeness attained by organic farming. “In the past it wasn’t possible to make a Brut Nature like this,” he says, “but after working organically we can do it.” -Peter Liem
Benoît Lahaye is located in Bouzy, a Grand Cru village in the Montagne de Reims region. His family has been making Champagne since the 1930’s, and he and his wife Valérie now work in their winery with their two sons. The estate covers a tiny 4.8 ha, with 3 ha in Bouzy, 1 ha in Ambonnay and .6 ha in Tauxières. Bouzy brings structure, power and fruit, while Ambonnay brings acidity and roundness. The vineyards are mainly planted with Pinot Noir (just under 90%) on south/southwest facing slopes. The vines average 35 to 40 year old. In addition, a .2 ha parcel of 50 year old Chardonnay is planted in Voipreux, in the southern Côte des Blancs. Since it is far away from Bouzy, these vines are worked by Pierre Larmandier. The total production is less than 40,000 bottles per year.
Farming practices: in 1995, Lahaye took the decision to allow grass to grow in the totality of the vineyards. He works the soil in order to aerate it and limit competition regarding water intake by the vines during certain periods of the year. The estate is fully organic since 2003, and 2007 was the first vintage Certified Organic. Lahaye only uses his own compost, and also some organic manure as a complement. Various herb infusions are applied, along with other fermented extracts from plants, copper-based (in regulated quantities) and sulphur-based preparations, and essentials oils in order to combat plant disease. Since 2009, Lahaye has been applying the principles of biodynamic viticulture to further the every-day work, improve the characteristics of the terroir, and reveal the full potential of the soil and the vines. Benoît says that the switch to biodynamic practices has brought higher potential alcohol at harvest, but also higher acidity and more anthocyanins. Tamise, a 7 year old working-horse from the Auxois breed, joined the team in 2010. Tamise helps in the vineyards, from ploughing to spreading the compost or picking up the frames. Since 2010, the estate has been certified as biodynamic by Biodyvin.
Vinification practices: in the cellar, the work is as minimal as possible. The major part of the vinification is achieved in Bordeaux (225 liters) and Burgundy (228 liters) oak barrels. Only natural yeasts are used, and no chaptalisation is done – a practice conducted by many estates. The wine is aged for 10 months on the lees without any racking. All the wines now go through malolactic fermentation: with the biodynamic practices, they have enough acidity and fruit to go through it, and it is not necessary anymore to stop the malolactic fermentation by adding sulfites. The barrels are in a building with windows, so that the wine “sees the seasons” before being bottled. As of the 2012 harvest, all base wines are fermented in barrel. The wine is bottled on a fruit day, or sometimes on a flower day. All the bottles are turned over with gyropalettes. There is no difference with manual riddling, and it allows to gain time and be in the vineyards when there is a lot of work to be done there. The bottles stay 7 days in the gyro for stabilization, before the 7 days riddling process. Since 2008, Lahaye has been experimenting with making wines without the addition of sulfur, bottling a “sans soufre” cuvée called Violaine.