This small grower domaine in Bouzy makes some of the most sought-after Champagnes; particularly the old-vine cuvée 'Jardin de la Grosse Pierre.' Their work is about respect for nature & bringing this into their bottles; from working with a plough horse to culturing their own yeasts for secondary fermentation.
"What’s ‘on trend’ in winemaking doesn’t interest me. What I care about is that there are no problems with the wines when they’re taken out of the cellar — 5, 8, or 10 years later. It’s about longevity."
People: Benoît Lahaye
Place: Bouzy, Champagne, France
Varieties: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, Arbane, Petit Meslier, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris), plus a few stray outsiders such as Teinturier, Fromenteau and Gros Plant
Did You Know? When Jacques Puffeney retired (one of the original natural winemakers of the Jura), Benoît was able to buy his last foudres. They had been home to Puffeney's last vintage of 2014 Trousseau, so represent a little piece of this iconic domaine's history. Benoît fermented and aged his 2018 Le Jardin de la Grosse Pierre in them, and next, they will house his reserve wines; becoming soleras.
Benoît has been working with a local laboratory to culture his own indigenous yeasts. Typically, making Champagne involves adding lab-cultured yeasts (bought in packets) to restart the fermentation in bottle. But by creating cultures of his own yeasts, he can create the second fermentation in bottle from natural yeasts, too.
"We have two yeasts so far, and we're trying with three more. The idea is to have a yeast from each terroir. This is very interesting, because it means each parcel will have its own identity via its own yeast strain. Together with individual pied de cuves from each parcel, it means the wines will be even more expressive of their terroir. Already, we've noticed a huge difference. Every time we find more complexity... a lot more. Our own yeasts give this saline taste without the bitterness."
It's a process that cannot be rushed. Benoît emphasises this:
"This year, I think we will do everything without sulphites. If the harvest is difficult, like 2017, of course we'll add some. But if the harvest is great, we'll work without. We've taken a lot of time to understand it all, and now we feel we do. But it's been ten years of observation to get to where we are today: this is crucial. It's exactly like in the vineyard; you can do an experiment in a parcel, but only see results 10 years later."
Benoît's contemplations aren't limited to yeasts. Jura winemaker, Stéphane Tissot, is another keen thinker, and a good friend of Benoît. Benoît says,