Champagne's Rising Star: Benoit Lahaye Naturessence

Posted by Joe Salamone

Champagne's Rising Star
Benoît Lahaye NV Naturessence

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

Benoît Lahaye's reputation appears to finally be spreading in this country. This is a good thing.

Champagne this good shouldn't be a secret. Benoît Lahaye is simply working very, very hard in the vineyards (and the cellar.) And he's rendering his terroirs with a level of purity and finesse that's truly noteworthy.

He has already built a strong following in Europe. In the Champagne region itself, Lahaye is the person everyone is talking about, a rising star making undeniably compelling sparkling wine and still Bouzy rouge.

Lahaye's wines are hard to come by in this country. Beginning last year, we've tried our best to make sure that Lahaye's wines were available. At the time, most of them had never been in the country. Over the past year, we've worked through his entire line-up from his NV Brut Nature all way through his vintage, his ambitious and very impressive unsulphured Violaine and finally, his benchmark Bouzy rouge, a still Pinot Noir.

Today, as Lahaye's reputation is starting to build a critical mass here, we'd like to return to one of our favorite bottlings of Lahaye's, his Naturessence.

What's so impressive about Naturessence is its sheer elegance; the remarkable power just takes the wow-factor to yet another level here.

The wine showcases Lahaye's signature - intensity with detail and lightness - in an absolutely wonderful and obvious way. The bottle shows plenty of intensity and juicy red fruits that are wrapped around a refined, stylish and nervy core of chalky minerality. Overall, there's plenty of purity and general breed.

Naturessence comes from 45- to 60-year-old vines and is a 50/50 blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The Pinot is sourced from the Montagne de Reims' Grand Cru vineyards of Ambonnay and Bouzy, while the Chardonnay comes from nearby Tauxières plus a tiny 0.2-hectare plot in Voipreux, which is further south in the Côte des Blancs. This is actually too far south for Lahaye - who is fastidious about his vine care - to tend to personally, so he has his friend, the benchmark grower Pierre Larmandier, help farm it.

This particular bottling of Naturessence is comprised of 2006 and 2007. The roundness of the 2006 vintage perfectly complements 2007's leanness and brightness. The wine is vinified in old barrels, and malolactic fermentation is blocked to ensure that everything remains intense and vibrant.

Having had the opportunity to sit down with multiple bottles of each cuvée, I've only grown more impressed with Lahaye, with the way his wines combine intensity, finesse and agility. And how they're rendered so vividly, so harmoniously mineral.

Lahaye's Champagnes have always been limited - he's just 4.8ha and he works hard to keep his yields low. As his reputation has quickly spread, availability has become even tighter. Prices have also begun to creep upwards - the domaine has raised prices twice this year. Lahaye is working very hard, he deserves the fame and the prices, but from a buyer's perspective now is the time to act.

To order, please email us at or call the store at (212) 980-9463.

Joe Salamone
Wine Buyer
Crush Wine & Spirits