THE LAHERTE FAMILY
The Laherte estate was founded in 1889 by Jean-Baptiste Laherte. At this time, most of the vines were situated in a village known as Chavost.
The fourth generation, that of Michel Laherte, expanded the family estate which was then covering about 5 hectares. He got married to Cécile Tissier whose family was living in Courcourt. Born into an 8-child-family, Cécile quickly got used to working in the vineyard and managed to combine her work as a dynamic vinegrower with the education of her two children, Christian and Thierry.
The two young vinegrowers greatly expanded the Laherte estate by modernizing the press and the tanks and implementing new techniques, thus making the most of the vineyard. Thierry quickly realized that too much modernity was detrimental to the Terroir’s expression – wines were not expressing themselves properly. After all, what is the point of using herbicides, pesticides, and huge stainless steel tanks ?
Being a vinegrower does not mean producing grapes as easily as possible. It also means cultivating the soils, smoothly vinifying the juices, remaining humble and patient, and letting each grape variety express itself in the wine.
Today, the 10-hectare-vineyard is run by the two Laherte brothers, as well as Thierry’s son, Aurélien.
Since 2004, the sixth generation has been giving a new dimension to the estate. Indeed, following in his father’s footsteps, Aurélien understood that the estate’s true philosophy lies in taking time to do things well and being satisfied with naturally ripe and healthy grapes.
Aurélien is now carefully managing this treasure passed on from one generation to the next since decades: a family know-how and living vines.
Today, all the family members are working hand in hand to preserve this precious Terroir passed on by their forefathers and try to create wines that are just like them - pure, sincere and authentic.
THE LAND IENTITY
1.THE CHAMPAGNE REGION
The Champagne area stretches over just about 34,000 hectares.
Located 150 kilometers east from Paris, France, the highly parceled out Champagne region offers 319 vintages.
The vineyard is situated in one of the most northern wine-growing region. The weather is particularly harsh, as the average annual temperature does not exceed 10° C.
The subsoil plays a key role in the quality of the wines in Champagne with its patchwork of micro-soils and, in the most interesting areas, a chalky and calcareous parent rock, essential to the delicacy of a great wine.
Chalk in the Champagne area mainly comes from the Mesozoic era and is characterized by the presence of fossil belemnites.
The winegrowers therefore have to cultivate their lands with great care so that all nuances of Champagne wines fully stand out.
2.IN THE BEGINNING, THERE WAS THE LAND
The estate covers more than 10,50 hectares within the Champagne vineyard and spreads over three clearly delimited areas :
- mainly on the southern slopes of Épernay with Chavot, Épernay, Vaudancourt, Moussy, Mancy and Morangis vintages, planted with the three Champagne grape varieties,
- the Côte des Blancs with the Vertus and Voipreux vintages, planted with Chardonnay 1er Cru,
- the Vallée de la Marne with the Le Breuil and Boursault vintages, planted with the Meunier grape variety.
The wonderful patchwork of soils in our vineyard which includes more than 75 parcels and 10 Champagne vintages offers many creative opportunities and allows us to make the most of our Terroir.
1.THE HOUSE’S PRINCIPLES
It all begins with the vine.
Through regular plowing, our wonderful Terroirs express themselves up into the wine tasting glass. Spring plowing makes the soils loose and well-aired and trigger biological and physical mechanisms necessary to nurture the vine stocks. Fall plowing goes deeper and pulls out surface roots so that the vine roots sink further into the chalky parent rock.
Of course, we keep our old vines and some of them already underwent more than 70 harvests. They will expose the quintessence and the purity of each vintage.
As they go deep into the soil, the roots bring the vine minerals that are essential to the delicacy and good length of our wines. We use these old parcels for our sélections massales – that is to say, to obtain high-quality and natural vegetal elements for future plantations, thus preserving the memory of our vines
2.THE HUMAN TOUCH
Throughout the year, we work in the most traditional and natural way possible.
With help from our team consisting of about ten employees during spring and summer time, we do our best to let each vine stock grow and express itself.
We give priority to winegrowing techniques based on natural and dynamic practices :
- plant infusions to improve natural defence systems,
- high foliage so that the photosynthesis ensures a nice maturity,
- planning the pruning work and treatments on favourable days in order to strengthen our vine stocks.
It is absolutely essential to manage the soil with great care in order to preserve its balance and make it loose and able to be home to a natural and diversified wildlife.
RESPECT FOR THE WINE
1.SOURCES OF INSPIRATION
Wine is all about sensitivity and feelings.
Throughout the year, we keep a careful watch on our vineyard. We have to pay attention to each detail in order to seize what the vine has to offer. This means observing, smelling, tasting, listening, and touching.
When the harvest time comes, the wine’s identity is already unveiling in each grape variety. Cosmic impulsions, the precise work carried out during the growing period, as well as climate factors, shape the architecture of the future wine.
The purest expression of a soil begins right in the vine and goes on during the vinification process.
At our estate, we are able to separate juices proceeding from different villages and, consequently, different microclimates. A 4,000 kg-press equals 9 barrels. This step is absolutely necessary in order to understand the soil.
The wine then begins revealing its personality. The art of the Champagne blending consists in combining these personalities to create a well-balanced, elegant, and fruity wine.
However, because we are fully aware of the diveristy and quality of our heritage, we do not try to chase away these particular features. A single-parcel cuvée is the true identity of a vine: the Terroir gains the upper hand over the winemaker’s blending work.
This is how we bring the best out of our Terroir - by cultivating the differences, being proud of these unique features, and letting the soils express themselves.
3.PRESERVING GRAPES AND MINERALS
Wine must taste like grapes.
When the maturity reaches its phenolic optimum, we press the grapes directly at our estate, right in the middle of the village of Chavot, with two 4,000-kilo traditional presses.
One press would have been enough, but we insist on pressing our grapes right after they have been picked: we are waiting for the grapes, the grapes are not waiting for us.
Must settling sessions are shorter and may not be carried out sometimes. The deposit from the must is part of the juice and brings the authentic taste of the fruit.
Vinifications are relatively simple: barrelling by gravity, slow and spontaneous fermentations with natural yeasts, stirring of the lees during the growing period. Depending on the wine, one or two racking sessions are carried out before the bottling process.
From then on, we have to let each barrel fully express the features of the vintage, the grape variety and the soil. Of course, we need to be extremely precise.
4.THE QUEST FOR BALANCE
It is essential to bring the best out of each vine parcel by carefully vinifiying the grapes in order to reach the perfect alchemy, be it in stainless tanks, tuns, or barrels.
This is also true for malolactic fermentation which does not always occur, depending on the vintage, the grape varieties and the mood of each barrel. We are not looking for oxidation or reduction, but for balance.
We believe that each detail has its importance and plays a key role in the wine’s evolution. Here are a few examples:
- Harvesting the grapes early in the morning to preserve flavours
- Stirring the lees in a barrel on “fruit days” in the evening
- Carefully selecting the barrels which will fit the Chardonnays des Crayons
- Being aware of the benefits of a 3-month natural fermentation
- Following our instinct and understanding how the wine evolves instead of creating standard wines
- Being patient
From one generation to the next, we will strive for balance: this is an infinite quest which makes us understand better our Terroirs, our wines and ourselves.
During the disgorging process, a particular attention is paid to a crucial element: the wine’s balance.
We strive to let the fruit fully express its flavours, while preserving the minerality and the sweetness of the wine.
A low and precise dosage enables us to bring the best out of our practices, both in the vines and the cellar.