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It has been a wild ride the past few years, as the market for terroir-driven Champagnes has grown by magnitudes and the most sought-after producers' wines command prices that rival those of blue-chip Burgundies. Despite this, the wines of Aurelien Laherte have stayed relatively affordable and until this year, in regular supply. I am an unabashed fan of the Laherte wines. I love the racy style and pinpoint clarity of terroir and I admire the ambition that goes into making such a broad range of wines (the full lineup is fourteen cuvées spread across eleven hectares). I've had some pretty haunting bottles over the years that have deepened my understanding of Champagne at large.
Aurelien is the latest in a long line of Lahertes to lead his family estate, founded in the late 19th century, but he has made a deep imprint since taking the reigns in 2005. Located in Chavot in the Coteaux Sud d’Epernay (the area just south of Epernay between the Vallée de la Marne and the Côte des Blancs,) Laherte Frères farms an incredible number of micro-terroirs with something like 75 parcels in total. The Coteaux Sud d’Epernay has the good fortune to feature both chalk and clay soils; the chalk imparts shelly aromas and porous, mouth-coating minerals to the wines; the clay gives ripe and supple flavors and textures to the wines. Today the entire surface of the estate is farmed organically and/or biodynamically (some with certification, some without) and Aurelien and his team have begun in recent years to focus on rigorous cover-cropping to reduce plowing and build soil health.
The wines are in general all aged in used Burgundy barrels and then aged in bottle on lees for anywhere from 24 to 48 months depending on the cuvée. Dosage ranges from zero to eight grams. In addition to high quality viticulture, the estate is perhaps defined by its versatility: Aurelien is as equally adept working with Chardonnay as with Pinot Meunier or Pinot Noir and produces a series of single-vineyard wines that are each deeply individual. There are three of these on offer today:
Les Grandes Crayères - This is a crackling and intense Blanc de Blancs, from just outside Chavot. The soil is quite shallow and there is plenty of chalk in the subsoil. Roughly thirty months on the lees and between three and four grams dosage.
Les Vignes d'Autrefois - It has to be said that Aurelien has a special touch with Pinot Meunier and it's on full display in this bottling, made from vines between 70 and 75 years old. What is most striking here is the tension between the lovely ripe red fruit core, the pretty spice character and the incredibly snappy acid structure. This has always been a CSW favorite.
Les Beaudiers - Another astonishing Pinot Meunier cuvée here and the Laherte wine that first grabbed hold of me years ago. A saignée from a parcel of vines planted between 1953 and 1965 in clay and silt with flint and chalk, this is so vinous and cerebral and yet completely satisying. It's brilliantly savory and mineral and if you can linger over it for a couple of hours it can astonish.
In addition to these, we are offering the always stellar Blancs de Blancs Brut Nature, the macerated Rosé de Meunier Extra Brut, and the 2016 Empreintes Extra Brut, a blend of equal parts Chardonnay Muscaté and Pinot Noir from two prime Chavot parcels. There is also a tiny bit of the excellent single vineyard Coteaux Champenois of Pinot Meunier Les Rouges Maison. Anyway you slice it, this is a great opportunity to try a variety of wines from a great domaine. Sam Ehrlich
** THIS IS A PRE-ARRIVAL OFFER. WINES WILL BE AVAILABLE MIDDLE OF NEXT WEEK**
Aurélien Laherte decided to retool his previous Brut Rosé Ultradition Champagne and focus on one exclusively made from Pinot Meunier. This Champagne combines 60% immediately pressed Meunier blended with 30% macerated Meunier and 10% still red Meunier (most rosé Champagnes only opt for one of these methods of production). This wine has a deep salmon robe with delicate flavors of wild cherry, salty plum, dried tarragon, and a sharp streak of chalky minerality. A Champagne with both finesse and structure, you can serve this as an aperitif or pair this with lighter meats or a rare filet mignon!
A staff favorite, this is the go-to Blanc de Blancs for a lean and food friendly Champagne. The nose is understated with notes of Meyer lemon, sage, and orange blossom. The palate offers a rush of freshness that carries aromas of white peaches, apricots through to a McIntosh apple finish.
100% Pinot Meunier, planted in Chavot between 1947 and 1953. This wine is all about balance and tension, between crisp red fruit, mineral intensity and delicate floral and spice notes. Aged in older barrels and roughly 30 months on the lees.
50% Chardonnay Muscaté, 50% Pinot Noir, from two parcels in Chavot.
Coteaux Champenois Rouge, made from all Meunier from a single parcel in Chavot with complex and quite deep soils of clay, flint and schist , with chalk underneath.