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Benoît Lahaye

Benoît Lahaye

VigneronBenoît and Valérie Lahaye
LocationBouzy (Marne)
Size of Domaine4.8 ha
TerroirContinental climate with Oceanic influence. Clay-limestone soil on chalk bedrock. South-facing slopes. 120-180m altitude.
ViticultureCertified organic (Ecocert) biodynamic (Biodyvin)
View Benoît Lahaye wines ↓

Benoît and Valérie Lahaye make quite exceptional champagnes from superb terroirs, including four single-vineyard champagnes. They have just 4.8 ha of vines in Bouzy and Ambonnay that they work together with their two sons, and an incredibly muscular horse called Tamise used for ploughing to avoid compaction of the soils.

Since changing to biodynamic viticulture in the late 2000s the most notable benefit has been that the grapes attain higher levels of ripeness whilst retaining the same level of acidity. As the grapes regularly give 11% alcohol for the first fermentation and there is a natural density to the juice, most of their champagnes are now disgorged without dosage and since 2008 they have carried out the malolactic fermentations.

“It was planted more or less indiscriminately in the 1920s and even when my grandfather replaced some of the vines in 1952, we don’t really know what he planted.”
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Tamise and Benoît at work

This made the champagnes more user-friendly, easier to drink with a purer fruit, as it enables greater exchange between the lees and the wines, giving a better depth of fruit, structure and mouthfeel. They also age all their champagnes in oak (except for the rosé) which again adds a little extra complexity. Benoît is a very thoughtful, curious vigneron, who works with touch and feel, for example using either corks or caps for his vintage champagne entirely dependent on the strength and structure of the initial wine, with more structured vintages aged under cork and richer vintages under cap. He has also isolated indigenous yeasts from different vineyards and tested their influence on flavour and aromatics by vinifying three barrels of the same wine using different strains in two barrels and one with the vineyard’s natural mix – this experiment proving that the impact of yeasts on wines flavours is quite marked, but underlining that a natural mix of native yeasts tends to work best.

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He never uses sulphur at disgorging, and after several experiments, now bottles one cuvée Violaine with no sulphur used at any stage. Total sulphur levels throughout the range average a very low 15mg/l. The range otherwise comprises a non-vintage Brut Nature, a vintage-dated Blanc de Noirs from Bouzy vineyards, a superb Rose de Saignée, and perhaps the most striking champagne, Le Jardin de la Grosse Pierre, a single-vineyard of co-planted vines in Bouzy started off by his grand-father in 1927, that includes all seven of Champagne’s permitted grape varieties plus tiny amounts of grapes like teinturier, fromenteau and gros plant. Lahaye himself doesn’t even know what varieties are planted there or how many there are: “It was planted more or less indiscriminately in the 1920s” he says, “and even when my grandfather replaced some of the vines in 1952, we don’t really know what he planted.” Finally, just to mention a new cuvée, a no sulphur Blanc de Blancs made from a minuscule 0.12 ha parcel called Les Mont-Ferrés in Voipreux near Vertus.

02_Vine_Trail_Benoit_Lahaye_16_9_1_0 Barrels and amphoras 'en terre cuite' (terracotta)

Benoît Lahaye Wines

Benoît Lahaye

BRUT NATURE
Grand Cru
90% Pinot Noir, 10% Chardonnay (12% alc.)

This comes from Grand Cru rated 30yo vines in Bouzy and Ambonnay and brown soils that vary from 40cm to 1.5 metres in depth. Made 55% from 2014 and reserve wines from 2013 and earlier, it was initially aged in 2-5yo barrels. It was then given two and a half years bottle ageing on the lees before it was disgorged in January 2018. Very expressive red fruits on the nose, and on the palate a superb depth of rich, quite complex, spicy red fruits, at the same time fresh and balanced with attractive bitters on the finish.

Benoît Lahaye

BLANC DE NOIRS 2015
1er Cru
100% Pinot Noir (12% alc.)

This comes from the 2015 vintage and Grand Cru rated 24yo vines in the lieudit of Cercets in Bouzy where chalk is more present than the Brut Nature. It was initially aged in 2-5yo barrels, then given 2.5 years on the lees before it was disgorged in January 2019 with a 4.5g/l dosage. More structured red fruits here, with notes of dried fruits, touch of apricot and citrus fruits, with a saline finish featuring lovely bitters.

Benoît Lahaye

ROSÉ DE MACÉRATION 2015
100% Pinot Noir (12% alc.)

Made from 35yo vines from the vineyard of Les Juliennes in Bouzy (whole bunches macerated for 2.5 days) and aged 50% in amphora and 50% in 300ltr barrels with completed malolactics, this has intensely fragrant strawberries and raspberries with a hint of rose on the nose and is a seriously vinous (only 3g/l dosage), terroirdriven rosé with an incredibly sustained finish. LQ.

Benoît Lahaye

GRAND CRU 2012
85% Pinot Noir, 15% Chardonnay (12% alc.)

The 45yo vines are 100% from the Bouzy vineyards Monts de Tauxières and Haut des Argentieres. Fermented in 5yo 225ltr barrels, with malolactics now completed and the champagne was bottled off under cork without filtration in July 2013. It was disgorged in October 2017 with a 4g/l dosage. It shows a tense, vinous depth of red fruits, and the texture is silky and refined, with an excellent, fine beaded mousse and attractive bitters on the finish. VLQ.

Benoît Lahaye

JARDIN DE LA GROSSE PIERRE 2012
Grand Cru
Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Arbanne, Petit Meslier, Fromenteau, Gros Plant, Teinturier + others! (12% alc.)

The vines here are co-planted starting off in 1927 by Benoit’s grandfather (who called an orchard he also planted here la Grosse Pierre), on a south-west facing hillside towards the base of Bouzy near the chemin de Tauxières. Aged in 3-5yo barrels with just a touch of SO2 added at the press (17mg/l) – just 1500bts have been made. It's quite a startling champagne, complex, distinct and richly fragrant with savoury, distinct umami notes, green herbs, and incredible depth of energetic, expressive fruit (zero dosage). VLQ.

Benoît Lahaye

BLANC DE BLANCS
100% Chardonnay (12% alc.)

This is a special new cuvée coming from a small holding in the village of Voipreux (between Le Mesnil-sur-Oger and Vertus) in the Côte des Blancs – for now Benoît prefers to blend and will not make this champagne every year. The vines here are 62yo (they have been ploughed by horse since 2010) and planted in shallow soil of clay and limestone with chalk at depth, giving grapes that are always healthy (never any rot) and ripe. It is made of equal parts 2014 and 2015 (the next version will be 16/17), aged in barrels for two years and one year respectively before being assembled and bottled off, then disgorged in late 2018 with zero dosage. No sulphur has been used at any stage. It is a notably spicy, dense, ripe champagne imbued with a rare sense of energy and vigour.

Benoît Lahaye

CÔTEAUX CHAMPENOIS 2015
Bouzy Rouge
100% Pinot Noir (12.8% alc.)

Grown in three of Lahaye’s oldest parcels (50yo) planted on mid-slope, or ‘coeur de terroir’, this floral, structured and mineral Bouzy Grand Cru is (as per Peter Liem) not only one of the best examples of Bouzy Rouge but also one of the best still red wines in all Champagne. Destemmed by hand using a perforated wooden plank, the intact berries ferment in a gas-filled amphora for a month before pressing, and the wine is then aged in old 228l barrels for a year before bottling with the addition of 20mg of sulphur. It has a vibrant spicy nose, beautiful dynamic on the palate, and a distinct juicy peppery quality. VLQ.

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