Wines By Region / Champagne / Bouzy / Benoit Lahaye
Champagne Benoit Lahaye - Montaigne de Reims
Bouzy, Montaigne de Reims
Benoit Lahaye is located in Bouzy, a grand cru village in the Montagne de Reims. His family has been making Champagne there since the 1930’s, and today he works in the winery with his wife Valérie and their 2 sons. The domaine, which covers a surface area of 4.8 hectares, is situated in the regions of Bouzy (3.2 hectares), Ambonnay (1 ha) and Tauxières (0.6 ha). Bouzy brings structure, power and fruit to the wines while Ambonnay brings acidity and roundness. The estate is mainly planted with Pinot Noir (just under 90%) on south- and southwest-facing slopes. The vines average 35 to 40 years old. The total production is less than 40,000 bottles per year.
I imported Lahaye’s champagne for the first time around 2001. He wasn’t organic then, just a humble, small producer in Bouzy, a town known for Pinot Noir that achieves such ripeness that its still red wine is often released on its own. But shortly thereafter, Lahaye began changing his philosophy and the way he worked his vines. He began growing grass between the rows of all his vineyards rather than eliminating it with weed killers as is common in the region. He aerated the soil to limit the nutrients and water that can penetrate to the roots, and began using only organic compost in the vineyards. In 2003, Lahaye began to work the property fully organically, and 2007 was the first vintage to be certified by ECOCERT.
Lahaye uses only his own compost and organic manure to enrich his soil. Various herb infusions are also applied, along with other fermented extracts from plants and essential oils in order to combat plant disease. Since 2009, Lahaye has also been applying biodynamic principles to further improve the expression of his terroir and reveal the full potential of his soil and vines. He says that the switch to biodynamic practices has brought higher potential alcohol at harvest, but also higher acidity. His 9-year old work horse Tamise, who became part of the family in 2010, leads Benoit around the vineyards, plowing the soil and spreading compost.
In 2010, the estate was certified biodynamic by Biodyvin.
In the cellar the work is as minimal as possible. The major part of the vinification is achieved in 225-liter barrels, without any chaptalization and using only natural yeasts. The wine spends 10 months on its lees without racking. All the wines go through 100% malolactic fermentation—with the biodynamic practices, Lahaye is not afraid of losing too much acidity but, more than anything, he is against stopping the malolactic by adding sulfur. The barrels are in a new above-ground chai that has large windows so that the wine sees the seasons before being put in bottle.
Since the 2012 harvest, all wines at the domaine have been fermented in barrel. Following the biodynamic calendar, they are all bottled on a fruit (or perhaps a flower) day. All the bottles are rotated with gyro-palettes because, according to Benoit, “all the work to be done in the vineyards leaves little time for manual riddling.” Since 2008 Lahaye has also been experimenting with making wines entirely without sulfur, and now bottles a sulfur-free cuvée called Violaine.
Champagne Benoit Lahaye Blanc de Blancs
This 100% Chardonnay cuvée (from a tiny parcel called Monts Ferrés à Voipreux) is normally a 50/50 blend of 2 vintages and is vinified without adding sulfur and with zero dosage.
Champagne Benoit Lahaye Millésime Grand Cru Extra Brut
This champagne is only made in vintages Lahaye considers to be his best. A blend of 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay, from single, brown chalk-soil plots in Bouzy--the Pinot Noir from the parcel Monts de Tauxières, planted in 1966, and the Chardonnay from the parcel Haut de Argentières, planted in 1960. Vinification is in fûts de chêne for 5 years without malolactic fermentation, racking or filtration. Dosage is 4 grams/liter (extra brut).
Champagne Benoit Lahaye “Rosé de Maceration Les Juliennes” Extra Brut
100% Pinot Noir from Les Juliennes, a vineyard located on the terres blanches (white soils) in Bouzy on the border with Tauxières, planted in 1973. Whole cluster maceration for 2 to 3 days, then direct pressing of the grapes. The still wine is racked once and not filtered before its secondary fermentation. Low dosage at 2-3 grams/liter (extra brut). Production is around 4,000 bottles. Its fresh, inviting acidity perfectly balances the bright red fruits (raspberry, cherry) it generously offers up.
Champagne Benoît Lahaye “Cuvée Violaine Sans Soufre” Brut Nature
50% Pinot Noir and 50% Chardonnay, from the vineyards Les Argentières and Les Monts de Tours, both in Bouzy with dry brown chalky soils. Vinification is in used barrels using indigenous yeasts, afterward one or two lees stirrings and with complete malolactic fermentation. There is no racking or filtration during the elevage, and no dosage or sulfur at any part of its production. Only 1,800 bottles produced.
"The wine is luscious and alluring with bright energetic fruit showing depth and purity of flavor. Its soil notes are as equally intense as its fruit presence. Both persist with multi-dimensional fragrance and length. This outstanding wine unfolds in the glass, revealing new facets as it evolves." Peter Liem, ChampagneGuide.net
Champagne Benoît Lahaye “Le Jardin de la Grosse Pierre” Grand Cru Brut Nature
A rare field blend of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay, Arbanne, Chasselas, Petit Meslier, Gros Plant, Teinturier and other varieties, from a single parcel (called Le Jardin de la Grosse Pierre) on brown chalky soil in Bouzy Grand Cru. The oldest vines here were planted in 1923 by Benoît’s great-grandfather, who later replaced some dead vines with other varieties, mostly unknown or forgotten. Until 2009, the wine made from this parcel was blended with wine from other parcels, but after tasting it separately, Benoît recognized its unique character and decided to make a special cuvée from it. Depending on the vintage, it is aged for under a year in old 225-liter barrels, bottled without filtration, then kept an extra 2 years or so in bottle before release. Zero dosage. An incredible 140 cases made.
Champagne Benoit Lahaye Blanc de Noirs
100% Pinot Noir from Bouzy (Les Vaux Betins and Les Hannepes specifically, both plots with deep soils), and Tauxières (a plot called Les Argentières with more chalk.) The vines were planted in 1960, 1980 and 1990. The grapes from each parcel are pressed separately. Bottling is without filtration and the dosage is 5 grams per liter, making it an extra brut. 666 cases are produced. Its dark-toned fruit is underlined by a stony minerality. It is energetic and persistent all the way through to the finish.