From Peter Liem, www.champagneguide.net
Laherte Frères was founded in 1889 by Jean-Baptiste Laherte, although the Laherte family sold grapes to the local cooperative for many years. Michel Laherte, the father of current proprietors Thierry and Christian Laherte, began to bottle champagne under his own label, and when brothers Thierry and Christian took over the estate, they appropriately changed the name back to Laherte Frères. Since 2002, they have been assisted by Thierry’s son Aurélien (pictured), who represents the seventh generation of his family to grow vines in this area.
The Lahertes own ten hectares of vines, spread over an astonishing 75 parcels in ten different villages. Needless to say, some of these parcels are quite small, and fortunately much of the estate’s holdings lie in areas not too far away, in communes such as Chavot, Courcourt, Moussy, Vaudancourt, Mancy and Epernay. Aurélien Laherte is particularly interested in natural viticulture, and since 2005, five hectares of the estate have been farmed biodynamically. The other five are essentially organic, worked without any chemical pesticides or herbicides, and while Laherte would like to expand his biodynamic treatments to include more parcels, the main difficulty right now is distance, as some plots, such as those in Vertus or Voipreux, for example, are simply too far away from Chavot to effectively manage the intense labor required for biodynamic viticulture.
Many of Laherte’s champagnes demonstrate the distinct character of the Coteaux Sud d’Epernay, the area just to the south and southwest of the town of Epernay that falls between the Côte des Blancs and the Vallée de la Marne. The chalk in this region is noticeably softer and more friable than the hard chalk found in the Côte des Blancs, and here it’s usually covered by 50 centimeters to one meter of clay, often mixed with other elements such as silex, limestone, schist and marl. Combined with the diverse array of different expositions offered by the numerous folds and twists of the rolling slopes here, this creates a distinctive character in the wines that distinguishes them from those of the surrounding areas. “Our pinot noir is finer than that of the Vallée de la Marne because we have some chalk,” says Aurélien Laherte, “and our chardonnay is rounder and fruitier than the Côte des Blancs because we have some clay.” At the same time, this region is far from homogeneous: Laherte identifies 15 different terroirs in the village of Chavot alone, and vinifies each separately in order to preserve its individuality of expression.
Laherte’s champagnes are full in flavor and strongly imprinted by place, reflecting the earthy, stony terroirs of the Coteaux Sud d’Epernay. With their often ample girth and intense expression of soil, the wines can sometimes veer toward the rustic, but they more than make up for it by their depth of character. Dosage is always very low, between four and eight grams, which suits the ripeness and concentration of fruit here, derived from conscientious work in the vines.