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Benoit Lahaye, Blanc de Noirs Grand Cru Brut Champagne
Pinot Noir 100%
Lovely purity and freshness on the delicate nose. Being solely Pinot there is noticeably more structured red fruits here, with notes of dried fruits as well, a touch of apricot and ripe citrus. All culminating in a saline finish featuring a lovely bitterness.
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.
Benoit and Valerie Lahaye make quite exceptional champagnes from superb terroirs, including four single-vineyard champagnes. They have just 4.8ha 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.
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.