Aurélien Laherte

"Burgundy Comes to Champagne"
Aurélien Laherte

“What I admire most about these Champagnes is their purity and singularity of expression. Varietal and site character are always front and center. Organic/biodynamic farming and a minimalist approach in the cellar inform these wonderfully distinctive Champagnes. It’s next to impossible to choose favorites in this range.” Antonio Galloni, Vinous


“…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


Antonio Galloni’s commentary may not be breaking news for those following this grower. Yet his words neatly underline how Aurélien Laherte is working at a level that bears comparison with many of the best growers in Champagne. Laherte’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 prominent 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 Burgundy-style diversity has given rise to a series of exceptional and distinctive cuvée parcellaire wines that sometimes comprise just a single barrel of Champagne.

Aurélien has a fine reputation for his work with Meunier, so starting with his tour de force makes sense. Les Vignes d'Autrefois means ‘vines of another time’, so this is Laherte’s tribute to his region’s 1940-era Meunier vines planted around Chavot. It is made from a single four-tonne press of grapes grown on old vines in chalky terroirs: La Potote, Les Rouges Maisons, Les Hautes Norgeailles and Les Bas Putroux. One of Champagne’s great Meunier bottlings, it reflects the best qualities of its variety and place: penetrating, spicy, fleshy red fruit, chalky tension and long, mineral resonance.

Les Grandes Crayères showcases Laherte’s two most chalky-mineral soils in Coteaux Sud d’Épernay. Crayères means chalk, and Aurélien’s 40-plus-year-old mass-selection vines are situated on a west-facing hillside composed of Campanian chalk under just 20 centimetres of topsoil. Vibrating with chalky sensations, it is perhaps Aurélien’s most taut and intensely mineral wine. The soaring Les Longues Voyes is this wine’s counterpoint, a 100% Pinot Noir drawn from a single hectare of biodynamic vines in Chamery in the Montagne de Reims. The name, The Long Way, refers to the 25 kilometres Laherte must travel to work these vines. It’s a profound, rocky Blanc de Noirs, all layered red fruit and delicate spice sculpted by the mouth-watering austerity typical of Pinot Noir grown on limestone in Champagne.

Laherte refers to Les Empreintes as the “quintessence of the Chavot terroir.” It is always a selection of Aurélien’s five best barrels from his two finest Chavot plots: old-vine Chardonnay from Les Chemins d’Épernay. The wines are vinified separately and raised in old Burgundy barrels, giving a Champagne of alluringly vinous substance vibrantly anchored by crystalline freshness and the striking quinine-like minerality of its rocky soils.

Finally, one of Champagne’s most unique (and delicious!) rosé wines, Laherte's Les Beaudiers is crafted from vines that date back to the 1950s. In Chavot, this powerful limestone terroir can ripen Meunier to full maturity—so much so that Aurélien’s father used to make red wine from this area. Aurélien seeks a vinous and textured rosé de saignée from this potent terroir, but also one with delicacy and lift. Soaked on its skins for half a day to gain colour and structure, it is deeply textured and mouth-filling and marked by smoke and liquorice, yet equally a wine with a great deal of finesse for this style.

The Wines

Champagne Laherte Frères Les Vignes d'Autrefois 2018 (Disg. Dec 2021)
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Champagne Laherte Frères Les Vignes d'Autrefois 2018 (Disg. Dec 2021)

Disgorged December 2021. 100% old-vine Meunier. Les Vignes d’Autrefois (the vines of another time) is made from a single four-tonne press of grapes from old vines planted between 1947 and 1964. These grow in several chalky terroirs in Chavot and Mancy. The sites in Chavot (La Potote and Les Rouges Maisons), sit on deep clay and silt soils, with a presence of flint and small stones. In Mancy are Les Hautes Norgeailles and Les Bas Putroux, where the vines are rooted in clay soils over chalk.

The viticulture at these sites is entirely biodynamic. As well as referencing the age of the vines, the name also refers to the fact that these vines are all massal selections (i.e. non-clonal). There is even a soupçon of ungrafted vine material scattered throughout these vineyards. Aurélien uses old Burgundy barrels for the aging (including some sourced from Montille and Leroux) and there was no malolactic conversion. The wine aged for seven months in barrel all up, followed by 30 months on lees in bottle.

The very low dosage of 3 g/L allows the iodine minerality of these chalky terroirs to sing. Emblematic of the quality at Laherte today and reflecting the fruit’s tension and low-yield intensity, this offers a wonderful balance between penetrating, spicy and fleshy red fruit and salty, racy deliciousness. One of the great Meunier bottlings of Champagne.



The very low dosage of three grams per litre allows the iodine minerality of these chalky terroirs to sing through. Emblematic of the quality being achieved at Laherte today and reflecting the fruit’s tension and low-yield intensity, this offers a wonderful balance between penetrating, spicy and fleshy red fruit and salty, racy deliciousness. One of the great Meunier bottlings of Champagne.

“The 2018 Extra Brut Vignes d’Autrefois is a selection of 100% Meunier sourced from vines planted between 1947 and 1964. Deeply-pitched and vinous, the Autrefois fills out beautifully with a bit of time in the glass. The aromatics alone are thrilling, but all the elements are so well balanced. Old-vine Meunier planted on chalk yields a Champagne that deftly balances richness with vibrancy. The Autrefois nimbly captures the essence of the house style. It's a gorgeous Champagne from Laherte.”
94 points, Antonio Galloni, Vinous
Champagne Laherte Frères Les Vignes d'Autrefois 2018 (Disg. Dec 2021)
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Champagne Laherte Frères Les Longues Voyes Blanc de Noirs 2018 (Disg. Dec 2021)
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Champagne Laherte Frères Les Longues Voyes Blanc de Noirs 2018 (Disg. Dec 2021)

Disgorged December 2021. Les Longues Voyes translates as ‘the long way’, referring not only to the 25 kilometres that you need to travel from the Laherte estate to arrive at the vineyard, but also to the wine’s extended aging: 18 months in barrel and a further 18-20 months in bottle.

The fruit is sourced from a single hectare of biodynamic vines in Chamery, Montagne de Reims, owned by a good friend of Aurélien Laherte’s. The 35-year-old vines are rooted in clay and silts over a limestone base. The wine was made from a single four-tonne press of grapes, which was naturally fermented and matured in old Clos des Epeneaux and Leroux barrels. There was no malolactic conversion and the dosage was 4 g/L.

So, the estate now has two vintage Blanc de Noirs released at the same time: Les Vignes d’Autrefois from Meunier and Les Longues Voyes from Pinot Noir. The first comes from a chalky subsoil and the second from limestone, and it is fascinating to compare the different structures that result. Fans of Pinot Noir on limestone should move to the front of the queue.

This is wonderfully vinous with pulpy raspberry fruits and some racy, candied orange notes on the close. The acidity is firmer here than in the Vignes d’Autrefois and it has a chewy austerity that is a very typical character derived from the limestone soils of Champagne. Fans of Pinot Noir on limestone should move to the front of the queue.

“The 2018 Extra Brut Blanc de Noirs Les Longues Voyes 1er Cru, 100% Pinot Noir, is the most engaging of the three parcellaire wines today. Aromatic, deep and exquisitely layered, the Longues Voyes is super-expressive today. Crushed red berry fruit, mint, white pepper, crushed rocks and bright acids lend vibrancy throughout. Dosage is 4 grams per liter.”
94 points, Antonio Galloni, Vinous
Champagne Laherte Frères Les Longues Voyes Blanc de Noirs 2018 (Disg. Dec 2021)
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Champagne Laherte Frères Les Grandes Crayères 2018 (Disg. Dec 2021)
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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)
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Champagne Laherte Frères Les Empreintes 2016 (Disg. Dec 2021)
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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)
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Champagne Laherte Frères Les Beaudiers Rosé de Saignée 2018 (Disg. Dec 2021)
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Champagne Laherte Frères Les Beaudiers Rosé de Saignée 2018 (Disg. Dec 2021)

Disgorged December 2021. Aurélien’s premium rosé is 100% old-vine Meunier from a biodynamically managed vineyard named Les Baudiers in Chavot, Coteaux Sud d’Épernay. That’s not a typo, by the way; the first vintage of this wine bore a misprint on the label and the name Les Beaudiers has been used ever since. The vines were planted in 1953, 1958 and 1965. The vineyard lies on the lower slopes of Chavot, where the bedrock is hard limestone with topsoil made up of silex and clay. The occasional vine of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Fromenteau can be found in the vineyard as well. It’s a powerful terroir that can ripen Meunier to full maturity—so much so that Aurélien’s father used to make a red wine from this area.

The fruit was destemmed and left to macerate for 14-16 hours on skins, followed by natural fermentation in old oak barrels and maturation on lees (in the same barrels) for a minimum of 12 months, with no malolactic conversion. After being aged in bottle on lees for four years, the wine was disgorged by hand with around 2-3 g/L. Aurélien seeks a vinous and textured Rosé de Saignée from this potent terroir, but also one with delicacy and lift.

Aurélien seeks a vinous and textured Rosé de Saignée from this potent terroir, but also one with delicacy and lift.

“The NV (2018) Extra Brut Rosé de Saignée Les Beaudiers is a very nutty, slightly oxidative wine with fine balance and tons of spicy/earthy Meunier character. The Beaudiers emerges from vines planted in 1953, 1958 and 1965. Inquisitive tasters will best enjoy its quirky personality. Zero dosage. Disgorged December 2022”.
92 points, Antonio Galloni, Vinous
Champagne Laherte Frères Les Beaudiers Rosé de Saignée 2018 (Disg. Dec 2021)
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