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Champagne Laherte Frères

“Burgundy Comes to Champagne”: The Continued Rise of Aurélien Laherte

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, it is hard to understate how far the wines of this producer have come over the years. Aurélien Laherte’s terroir-centric wines are now at a level that bears comparison with many of the best grower wines in Champagne—and let’s not forget that we are talking about a vigneron barely into his forties.

The wines of Laherte Frères bring something unique and delicious to our suite of grower Champagnes. This is our first grower from the Côteaux Sud d’Épernay (slopes to the south of Épernay) where they are certainly the benchmark. They are based in Chavot, where most of their vines are situated, but they also have some parcels in other villages of the Côteaux Sud area as well as some tiny holdings in the Côte des Blancs and the Marne Valley. This domaine’s 10 hectares of vines are fragmented into no less than 75 parcels spread across 10 different villages. In Laherte’s home village of Chavot itself—not a large place by any means—Aurélien has identified no less than 27 distinct terroirs. Many of these parcels are planted to old vines from sélection massale cuttings. Such Burgundian-style diversity has given rise to a series of limited bottlings, sometimes comprised of just a single barrel’s worth of Champagne. 

The focus on terroir expression and meticulous viticulture, along with the unique terroir of the Coteaux d’Épernay, are the keys to understanding these expressive and delicious wines.

The distinctive, geologically complex terroir of Chavot and the Côteaux Sud d’Épernay in general is very different to the Côte des Blancs and Montagne de Reims areas where our other growers are based, and the style of wine is creamier and with more fruit generosity (to generalise). It’s a deliciously textured, yet racy style of Champagne that adds another impressive string to our Champagne bow.

The vineyard practices at Laherte Frères are impressive. Most of the estate is biodynamically farmed except for those vineyards that are too far away to do so (mainly those in the Côte des Blancs and the Marne Valley). These latter sites are still managed organically, with the soils cultivated and no herbicides or pesticides used. The high standards continue in the cellar. Aurèlien uses the traditional Coquard wooden Champagne presses. He has two of these (very unusual for an estate of this small size), which allows him to press more quickly and to keep small parcels separate. The wines are moved only by gravity. Fermentation occurs with natural yeast, and more than 80 percent of the wine is fermented and matured in large foudres and old barriques (as all Champagne once was pre the 1950s). Interestingly, Aurèlien buys barrels from Benjamin Leroux and the Liger-Belair family (of la Romanée fame).

We took on this grower because we could see the potential taking shape—in his terroirs, his work in the vines and in the wines we tasted from barrel. Since that time, the tireless level of viticulture practiced here has become ever-more intensive and meticulous. In the cellar, the amplified use of reserve wine, longer time on lees and lower dosage have also played a crucial role in raising Laherte’s wines to yet another level. They are very different from anything else in our portfolio and are bound to be enjoyed.

Currently Available

Champagne Laherte Frères Blanc de Blancs Brut Nature NV (Base 20 Disg. Jan 2023)

Champagne Laherte Frères Blanc de Blancs Brut Nature NV (Base 20 Disg. Jan 2023)

Disgorged January 2023. This super-mineral Champagne is 100% Chardonnay from the family's chalkiest soils in Chavot and Épernay. These vineyards are biodynamically farmed, and the soil is rich in chalk and chalky clay (marl), with pockets of flint and schist. The chalkiness drives the wine’s striking, racy and intensely saline minerality—that energy, freshness and zingy, citric line—while the clay balances fruit weight and texture.Built on perfectly ripe fruit, this bottling is based on the great 2020 vintage, with 40% reserve wines from the two previous years. As the name suggests, it’s bottled without dosage.Aged for just over two years in bottle following primary fermentation in barrique, foudre and tronconique cask, like all Laherte’s Champagne this was disgorged by hand. More than ever, it’s stunning value for those who love purity and minerality in their Blanc de Blancs. Now released with an additional seven months in bottle, the new disgorgement is a wonderfully sculpted Champagne, sizzling with tension and penetrating focus. Please note that the review refers to the previous bottling.

Note: This review refers to a later disgorgement. “The NV Brut Nature Blanc de Blancs is wonderfully precise and nuanced, sourced from the southern slopes of Épernay and the Côte des Blancs. Crushed rocks, lemon peel, mint, white pepper and bright saline notes all run through this super-expressive, taut Blanc de Blancs. This is classic Laherte. No dosage. Disgorged: April 2023.”
92 points, Antonio Galloni, Vinous
Champagne Laherte Frères Blanc de Blancs Brut Nature NV (Base 20 Disg. Jan 2023)
Champagne Laherte Frères Rosé de Meunier NV (Base 19. Disg. Jan 2023)

Champagne Laherte Frères Rosé de Meunier NV (Base 19. Disg. Jan 2023)

Disgorged January 2023. This dazzling Meunier represents superb value in a market where rosé wines are getting more and more pricey. It’s a blend of Meunier vinified three ways. Some 60% of the volume is from fruit pressed off in the traditional way to make a white wine (over one-third of this component was reserve wines that had been aged in barrels). A second, 30% portion was made as a saignée rosé (the juice left in contact with the skins for a short period). The final 10% of the blend is from a full-blown red wine.The fruit producing the white wine is from vines with an average age of 25 years, and the vines for the red and rosé wines are more than 40 years old. The wines were fermented and aged in a variety of vessels (vats, foudre and old demi-muid barrels) before being transferred to bottle for secondary fermentation. This release is a blend of 2019 (60%) and 2018 and was disgorged with just 2.5 g/L dosage. It’s a beauty.

Note: This review refers to a later disgorgement. “The NV Extra Brut Rosé de Meunier is bright, punchy and super-expressive, with notes of cranberry, blood orange, mint, crushed rocks and dried flowers. Deceptive in its mid-weight feel, the Rosé de Meunier packs a pretty serious punch. The blend is 60% Meunier (white pressed), 30% Meunier with maceration and 10% still red Meunier. Dosage is 2.5 grams per liter. Disgorged: March 2023.”
91 points, Antonio Galloni, Vinous
Champagne Laherte Frères Rosé de Meunier NV (Base 19. Disg. Jan 2023)
Champagne Laherte Frères Ultradition NV (Base 18. Disg. July 2022) (375ml)

Champagne Laherte Frères Ultradition NV (Base 18. Disg. July 2022) (375ml)

Dubbed “just impeccable, especially within its peer group,” by Galloni, Ultradition is made from fruit that is both biodynamic and organically reared. There are now two reserve vintages blended in, making up 40% of the blend, and 60% is comprised of barrel-aged material. The varietal blend remains 60% Meunier, 30% Chardonnay and 10% Pinot Noir, with the fruit drawn from seven different parcels across the Côteaux Sud d'Épernay and Vallée de la Marne (namely Chavot, Mancy, Morangis, Le Breuil, Boursault, Moussy and Vaudancourt). The average age of the vines is 30 years. Aurélien Laherte naturally ferments the juice in a mixture of vessels, including two 50-hL Rousseau tronconique casks, old barrels, foudre and concrete. Regardless of vessel, the wines are always on lees and malolactic fermentation is partially completed (around 60-70% on average). This bottling, based on the 2018 vintage with 40% reserve wines from 2017 and 2016, was disgorged with a dosage of 4.5 g/L (extra-brut).This is a top-value grower wine – bright, pure and juicy with loads of delicious redcurrant, floral and apple-skin Meunier fruit. A hint of spice adds complexity, and the finish is bright as a button, driven by zesty, mineral length. This bottling now has a beautiful new label (by artist Hanna Albrektson), bringing it into line with the Rosé de Meunier and Blanc des Blancs designs. It now looks as good as it tastes! The quality delivered for this price is outstanding.

“… the latest rendition of the NV Extra-Brut Ultradition offers up aromas of citrus zest, pear, fresh bread, white flowers and almonds. Medium to full-bodied, ample and chiseled, it's long and concentrated, concluding with a saline finish.”
91 points, William Kelley, The Wine Advocate
“The NV Extra Brut Ultradition is bright, dry and racy… Dried pear, spice, ginger and mint open in the glass, supported by bright acids that lend vibrancy and energy throughout. What a beautiful wine this is…”
90 points, Antonio Galloni, Vinous
Champagne Laherte Frères Ultradition NV (Base 18. Disg. July 2022) (375ml)
Champagne Laherte Frères Les Grandes Crayères 2018 (Disg. Dec 2021)

Champagne Laherte Frères Les Grandes Crayères 2018 (Disg. Dec 2021)

Disgorged December 2021. After the Brut Nature, this stunning Champagne is Aurélien Laherte’s second Blanc de Blancs bottling. Les Grandes Crayères showcases Laherte’s two most chalky, mineral soils in Coteaux Sud d’Épernay (crayères means chalk). These parcels of 40-plus-year-old massal selection vines are situated on a west-facing hillside composed of Campanian chalk under 20cm of topsoil.The base wine was fermented wild in old barrels (aged three to 10 years) and didn’t go through malolactic conversion, emphasising the wine’s chiselled qualities. It then spent 30 months on lees in bottle, and had a further nine months resting after disgorgement before release. The dosage was less than 4g/L and the bottling was disgorged by hand.

Ripe and juicy citrus aromas are touched by some floral perfumes, ozone minerality and a wet chalk freshness. The direct and focussed palate has plenty of bright citrus, clean-cut, driving acidity, some lovely autolysis-derived richness and a filigree weight.

“The 2018 Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs Les Grandes Crayères 1er Cru is a savory, intensely mineral and driven wine. Chalk, mint, white flowers and dried herbs all grace this linear, taut Champagne. The Crayères is understated and classy from start to finish. It's classic Laherte all the way. Dosage is 2-4 grams per liter.”
93 points, Antonio Galloni, Vinous
Champagne Laherte Frères Les Grandes Crayères 2018 (Disg. Dec 2021)
Champagne Laherte Frères Les Empreintes 2016 (Disg. Dec 2021)

Champagne Laherte Frères Les Empreintes 2016 (Disg. Dec 2021)

Disgorged December 2021. This wine offers what Laherte refers to as the “quintessence of the Chavot terroir.” It is always a selection of Laherte’s five best barrels from each of his two finest Chavot plots: old-vine Chardonnay from Les Chemins d’Épernay (planted in 1957 on clay with chalky subsoils, with around one-third of the fruit the rare Chardonnay-Muscaté); and Pinot Noir from Les Rouges Maisons (planted in the late ‘80s on a deep soil rich in clay, flint and schist). The wines were vinified separately and raised in old Burgundy barrels, (with some portions fermented in second-hand DRC Le Montrachet barrels). The dosage was 4 g/L.There is genuine depth and texture from the old vines and the clay of Les Chemins d’Épernay but this opulence is vibrantly balanced by crystalline freshness and a long, classy finish. A superb and unique Champagne that clearly speaks of its terroir. If you love great white Burgundy, then this has a similar set of textural and mineral qualities.

There is genuine depth and texture from the old vines and the clay of Les Chemins d’Épernay but this opulence is vibrantly balanced by crystalline freshness and a long, classy finish. A superb and unique Champagne that clearly speaks of its terroir. If you love great white Burgundy, then this has a similar set of textural and mineral qualities.

“The 2016 Extra Brut Les Empreintes is a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, a portion of which is Chardonnay Muscatel. Lemon drops, mint, white pepper and exotic floral notes all grace this intensely aromatic, beguiling Champagne. The 2016 possesses captivating inner sweetness and impeccable balance, not to mention a truly distinctive personality. Quite simply, it is really unlike anything I have ever tasted.”
93 points, Antonio Galloni, Vinous
Champagne Laherte Frères Les Empreintes 2016 (Disg. Dec 2021)
Champagne Laherte Frères Ultradition NV (Base 20 Disg. Oct 2023)

Champagne Laherte Frères Ultradition NV (Base 20 Disg. Oct 2023)

Disgorged October 2023. Dubbed “just impeccable, especially within its peer group” by Galloni, Ultradition is made from biodynamically grown fruit. There are now two reserve vintages blended in, making up 40% of the blend, and 60% comprises barrel-aged material. The varietal blend remains 60% Pinot Meunier, 30% Chardonnay and 10% Pinot Noir, with the fruit drawn from seven different parcels across the Coteaux Sud d’Épernay and Vallée de la Marne (namely Chavot, Mancy, Morangis, Le Breuil, Boursault, Moussy and Vaudancourt). The average age of the vines is 30 years. Aurélien Laherte naturally ferments the juice in a mixture of vessels, including two 50-hectolitre Rousseau tronconique casks, old barrels, foudre and concrete. Regardless of vessel, the wines are always on lees and malolactic conversion is partially completed (around 60-70% on average). Based on the 2020 vintage with 40% reserve wines from 2019 and 2018, this bottling was disgorged with a dosage of 4.5 g/L (extra brut). This is a top-value grower wine – bright, pure and juicy with loads of delicious redcurrant, floral and apple-skin Meunier fruit. A hint of spice adds complexity, and the finish is bright as a button, driven by zesty, mineral length. The quality delivered for this price is outstanding.

“The NV Extra Brut Ultradition is a very pretty, gracious wine consisting of a blend of 60% Pinot Meunier, 30% Chardonnay and 10% Pinot Noir from eight vineyard sources. Perfumed floral and spice notes give the Ultradition lovely brightness to match its mid-weight, notably vinous personality. Orchard fruit, chamomile, dried herbs, mint and crushed rocks are all wonderfully expressive, if a bit light. This is an especially nuanced edition.”
90 points, Antonio Galloni, Vinous
Champagne Laherte Frères Ultradition NV (Base 20 Disg. Oct 2023)
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“…A model of what can be achieved in less well-known terroirs by careful study of the soil, a viticulture of the highest order, and precepts of winemaking that are the best sort of evolved tradition … Burgundy comes to Champagne, and the true identity of the vine is revealed.” Michael Edwards, The Finest Wines of Champagne

“In Thierry Laherte and son Aurélien, the term "Champagne de terroir" makes perfects sense in a range that will delight lovers of authentic and tasty wines. The disgorgement date is mentioned on each bottle. An address in great shape.” La Revue du vins de France

“Aurélien Laherte produces full-bodied yet pure, refined and vibrantly fresh cuvées that need a certain amount of time after disgorgement to reveal their true class and depth. In any case, these are authentic, expressive terroir wines with style, thanks to sustainable viticulture with biodynamic methods.” Stephan Reinhardt, The Wine Advocate

Country

France

Primary Region

Champagne

People

Winemaker: Aurélien Laherte

Availability

National

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