A Discovery: Champagne Laherte

6/29/10 - 

On occasion saying that we’ve made a ‘discovery’ is really kind of silly. In this case these wines have been around for quite a while (1889, in fact – a mere newcomer by some standards) but they’re new to us – thus a discovery. I’d been hearing about Laherte, and I ended up tasting them in Italy – at the fabulous natural wine fair called VinNatur; there were a few Champagne producers there, but none of those wines came close to the distinctiveness – and just plain excellence of Laherte. As you might now assume, this is natural wine: organic and biodynamic farming on an unusually diverse and large number of terroirs (over 75 vineyard parcels in 10 different villages). Each wine is vinified separately and subject to a range of technique – fermentation in tank, barrique, and foudre (large wood barrels); malolactic on some wines and not on others – all depending on what each wine requires as it evolves. The dosage is very low (dosage = “The final addition to a sparkling wine… which determines the sweetness, or residual sugar, of the finished wine. In French this is called the liqueur d’expedition and usually comprises a mixture of wine and sugar syrup” – Jancis Robinson, the Oxford Companion to Wine) – the wines are very fresh and vivid, but also quite rich and ripe – evidently very good quality fruit is used. All of the range of wines are excepetionally good: excellent NV Brut and Rose, and the fantastic Les Clos – a unique blend of all seven types of grapes that are permitted for use in Champagne – one our best wine discoveries, sparkling or still, that we’ve made this year. JW

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