Benoit Lahaye: The Grower Everyone in Champagne is Talking About

Posted by CrushWine

Big Success in an Unforgiving Genre
Benoît Lahaye Brut Nature
Chalk-Imbued, Tension-Filled Non-Dosé Champagne
(and the Only Bottles in the U.S.)

"Lahaye is rapidly becoming one of the top grower-producers in the Montagne de Reims." -Peter Liem

These are big words: The list of great grower Champagne producers in the Montagne de Reims is long (let's toss out Egly-Ouriet as just one example to highlight the gravity of the statement), and Champagne sage Liem is placing Benoît Lahaye amongst the very best.

This praise is well-deserved. Benoît Lahaye is simply working very, very hard in the vineyards (and the cellar) and he's translating Bouzy's terroir with a level of purity and finesse that's truly noteworthy.

I've been trying to secure a parcel of Lahaye's Brut Nature for some time and, until now, I always missed out. While Lahaye isn't (yet) well known in the U.S., he's much sought-after throughout Europe. A friend who recently returned from Champagne told me that Lahaye was the person that everyone was talking about during his visit. And with only 4.8 hectares of vines, his wines can be very hard to come by.

My luck in landing a fair-sized parcel - the only bottles in the U.S. - was even more fortuitous because this particular bottling's base wine is from the very, very good (possibly great) 08 vintage. The 2008s boast classic proportions and great structure; this base is backed with the good 06 and 07 vintages, which complement the 08 well: 06 delivers roundness and richness, and 07 boosts it all with an easy-going freshness.

Since taking over his family's domaine in 1993, Lahaye has steadily moved the viticulture from being pesticide-free to organic to biodynamic. If that's a theory more and more widely practiced elsewhere, it should be noted that in Champagne's extreme climate (this is one of the most northerly haunts for Pinot Noir), biodynamic viticulture is serious work.

Today's offer for Lahaye's Brut Nature highlights this back-breaking work in the vineyard and the fantastic quality that it yields. Along with still wine, Brut Nature - Champagne made without dosage - is one of the most unforgiving mediums in which to work in Champagne's northern climate. Ripe grapes are essential. Bad examples are teeth-chatteringly, enamel-corrodingly austere; good examples deliver Champagne's chalky minerality so pristinely that they're thrilling to drink. 

Benoit Lahaye's Brut Nature, particularly from the 2008 base wine, exemplifies the clarity of expression and sense of overall harmony that can be achieved in non-dosage Champagne. In fact, he may actually flat-out nail this category: Peter Liem writes, "It feels unusually complete and rich in texture for a non-dosé."  

Beyond the viticulture, it helps that the Grand Cru village of Bouzy is very well-suited for making Brut Nature. The vineyards face south and bask in sunlight, allowing the grapes to achieve high levels of ripeness for Champagne. For this reason, Bouzy's reputation is for rich Champagnes... yet one of Lahaye's signatures is his ability to take this richness and translate it into Champagne that comes across as powerful, intense and elegant - it never shows as heavy or ponderous.

Bouzy wines also show a strong element of the village's chalk soils, their minerality imbuing Lahaye's Brut Nature with fascinating texture and a powerful thread of tension that runs through the wine as stone fruits, raspberries and minerals intermingle. This texture also proves to be particularly food-friendly, and so you should have no fear pairing Lahaye's Brut Nature with richer seafood dishes and poultry.

To reiterate, the bottles on offer today are the only ones available in the country, and the value is very sharp - especially considering the tough category. Once our tranche sells out, this unique wine will simply be unavailable. To order, please email us at to this email or call the store at (212) 980-9463.

Joe Salamone
Wine Buyer
Crush Wine & Spirits

Benoît Lahaye Brut Nature (2008 base)