Champagne harvest 2015 – a day in the vineyard and winery with the Lahaye family

Benoit and Etienne Lahaye in Le Jardin de la Grosse Pierre

On Wednesday I spent the day with the Lahaye family. After lunch Benoit first took me to the Argentière vineyard where we checked on the ripeness, before joining his pickers in the youngest part of the Jardin de la Grosse Pierre.
For the last 10 years, Benoit has employed a Turkish family paid by the kilo to pick. “We really struggled to find good pickers by the hour. So we started to work with Ismael, and have not looked back since”, says Benoit. The family works autonomously and after 10 years really knows the vineyards and the way of working Benoit requires.
They also like the fact the vineyards are biodynamic. “We work in a healthy environment; we can take some of the leaves to make dolmades”, explains Ismael.

This year there are plenty of grapes, and the bunches are big and heavy as well as healthy. Benoit did a Silice treatment a week before harvest which had a big impact on the development in the last week.

Ismael and his family in the vineyard

“The quality is awesome, all the potential alcohol degrees have been between 10,2 and 11%. The pH’s are just under 3 and the acidity levels are good. It is hard to believe there is such an abundance of grapes at this quality”, elaborates Benoit. The plentiful harvest makes for long days at the press; on top of this Benoit also presses the grapes of Stephane Hardy, a fellow organic grower based in Tour sur Marne. He has a 2000 kg pneumatic press, which allows him to press plot by plot, and does about 4 press loads a day. His sons Etienne and Valentin are very much involved in the harvest. Etienne is in charge of dropping off and collecting the cases of grapes, whilst Valentin is in charge of the running of the winery.

Tamise, Baltasar and Balsamine

Benoit lahaye uses natural yeasts for his first fermentation and this year he strted a unique project with two other Bouzy growers.“Valentin checks the yeast quality before we male the pieds de cuve by examining the form of the yeast cells under a microscope. This allows us to discard faulty strains and select healthy ones3, explains Benoit.
The Lahayes expect the harvest to finish early next week; Tamise, Baltasar and Balsamine are looking forward to bring the center of attention again at that time! 

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