Benoît Lahaye 'Violaine' (Sans Soufre) Champagne
Producer: Benoît Lahaye
Varietal: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay
Color: Sparkling White
Notes: 50% Pinot Noir and 50% Chardonnay, from vines planted in 1989 and 1990 - 50% from “Les Argentières” (Tauxières) and 50% from “les Monts des Tours » (Bouzy). The soil consists of brown chalk. The grapes are pressed separately for the two parcels, without sulfites. 1 or 2 stirring of lees ("bâtonnage"). Bottled without filtration. No sulfite added at bottling. No dosage. ~150 cases produced
Lahaye owns 4.8 hectares, largely planted with pinot noir. Three hectares lie in Bouzy, one hectare just over the border in Ambonnay, to the east, and another 60 ares in Tauxières, to the west. In addition, a 20-are parcel of 50-year old chardonnay vines is planted in Voipreux, in the southern Côte des Blancs, and since this is so far away from Bouzy, these vines are worked by Pierre Larmandier. Cover crops are planted in all of the parcels to encourage competition and prevent erosion, and Lahaye has observed that since he’s started using cover crops, a larger number and variety of plants have begun to grow in the vineyards, creating a healthier biodiversity.
In 2010, Lahaye began working two hectares of the domaine by horse, as this compacts the soil less than plowing by tractor. His goal is to eventually work the entire estate by horse, but if this isn't possible, he'll rotate parcels each year so that the effects are distributed across his vineyard area.
In the cellar the work is as minimal as possible. Lahaye has slowly been increasing the percentage of his wines vinified in 205-liter barriques, and as of the 2012 harvest, all base wines are fermented in barrel. All of the wines in barrel are fermented with natural yeasts, although wines that were made in stainless steel or enamel tanks were sometimes fermented with cultured yeasts, as Lahaye notes that indigenous yeast fermentation is more risky in tank, particularly in the inert, reductive environment of stainless steel. Since 1996, he has been working with non-malo wines, and today, the malolactic may be done or not, depending on the individual wine and the conditions of the vintage. In general, he prefers to blend both malo and non-malo lots: “Malolactic wines have more immediate complexity,” he says, “but with non-malo wines the complexity comes out with time." Since 2008 he has also been experimenting with making wines entirely without the addition of sulfur, bottling a sans soufre cuvée called Violaine.
As a final touch, Lahaye puts his vintage wines under either cork or capsule for their second fermentations, depending on the character of the year. In more structured vintages such as 2004, 2007 or 2008, he will use cork, as it gives the wines a little more richness and breadth. However, in ripe, expansive years, like 2005, 2009 or 2010, he prefers to use capsule, as he says "the wines are already corpulent enough."