A few weeks ago, I had the honor of attending the Laherte Frères Champagne Dinner at Edmund’s Oast. All of the wine dinners I have gone to at Edmund’s Oast have been a lot of fun as well as great learning experiences. But I was super excited about this one because I have a significant knowledge deficit when it comes to the art of champagne. Since this is one of Sarah O’Kelley’s (the sommelier at Edmund’s Oast), favorite producers, I knew I was in for a treat.
Side note: All Champagne is sparkling wine. But all sparkling wine is NOT Champagne. Only sparkling wine from grapes grown and vinified within the Champagne AOP (official wine region)may be called Champagne. For a more detailed explanation head back to my Bubbles 101 Primer.
Laherte Frères Champagne – Background
Jean-Baptiste Laherte set up the family estate in 1889, planting most of the vines in the village of Chavot. The estate gradually grew over several generations and covers today over 25 acres throughout the Champagne region. Since 2005, Aurélien Laherte – the seventh generation – has been running the estate.
Laherte Frères makes what is called Grower Champagne. What this means is that the grapes are grown on and cared for, by the estate. Additionally, the wines are also made at the estate.
What makes this Grower Champagne so interesting? First, they practice natural farming (similar to organic without any certification) They also employ a mostly hands-off winemaking approach with minimal manipulation in the cellar. Additionally, they choose to vinify the fruit from each plot of land separately to preserve and highlight the features of each locality from all 75 parcels. Other factors include immediate and delicate pressing and minimal dosage.
Well, that’s enough background lets get to this dinner.
Laherte Frères Wine Dinner at Edmund’s Oast
When I think of drinking champagne, I generally do not think of fried foods. Fried foods represent a casual dining experience. Drinking champagne represents the opposite. But boy was I wrong. These wines were spectacular pairings for each course. Bravo, Chef Bob, you did it again.
First Course: Laherte Extra Brut, NV
Paired with Frito Misto, Lettuce Wraps, Slaw and Dipping Sauces
The Frito Misto first course was a platter full of tempura-battered jumbo, local shrimp and soft-shelled crab along with various root vegetables. This course paired with the Laherte Extra Brut ($49.00); the entry level champagne in this style. The blend of juice for the wine is 60% Pinot Meunier, 30% Chardonnay and 10% Pinot Noir with 40% coming from reserve wines from the previous two vintages.
Side note: Champagne production allows for the blending of wine from the previous two vintages with the current vintage. This blending creates a consistent product from year to year. Any wine that uses reserve juice is always considered non-vintage or NV.
The color of this wine is a dark-ish straw yellow with a pink hue. The nose is of yeast and brioche which is what I like in champagne. On the first sip, comes firm acidity and flavors of pear and green apple. It is perfectly dry with a medium finish.
The champagne cut thru the tempura allowing me to focus on the seafood flavors. The acidity washed away the heat from the spicy dipping sauce that I dabbed on my lettuce wraps.
We are off to a great start.
Second Course: Laherte Blanc de Blancs, Brut Nature, NV
Paired with Grilled Pork Loin on a bed of Crab Rice
I have to admit Grilled Pork Loin with Crab Rice did not sound appealing to me. Perhaps it was the mixing the pork and seafood flavors that seemed odd to me. I do not know. But I trust the chef, so I dug in, and it was delicious. The loin was tender and beautifully seasoned. And the Crab Rice was the perfect counter to the Pork Loin. This dish paired with the Laherte Blanc de Blancs, Brut Nature NV ($56.00)
This wine is 100% Chardonnay with 50% of the juice from the current vintage, approximately 40% from the 2015 vintage and approximately 10% from the 2014 vintage.
The color is pale yellow. It is fresh and finessed with green apple and citrus flavors. There is a lovely mineral component that includes chalk and the taste of salty sea air. Wow, this is a beautiful terrior-driven wine that truly exemplifies its sense of place.
Side Note: Brut Nature means that there was no dosage. (addition of sugar to temper acidity from unripe fruit)
This wine is one of my favorites from the night and an extraordinary expression of Champagne; unlike any, I have ever had.
Laherte Rosé de Meunier Extra Brut, NV
Paired with Fried Chicken
and a Side of Potatoes, Ham & Clams
I clearly have not treated myself to any fried chicken in quite some time as I was devouring this bird tonight. Crispy, crunchy, flavorful on the outside, and a moist, juicy and tender bite on the inside. I was in my own little heaven.
BACK TO EARTH, Rick! Do you realize you are eating Fried Chicken with French Champagne? How bougie is that! And who would have thought that it would work so well? Obviously, that would be Chef Bob. And a quick note about the potatoes, ham, and clams…yum. But the star of this food course was the fried chicken.
The Laherte Rosé de Meunier Extra Brut, NV ($57.00) is 100% Pinot Meunier, and it is superb. It is also one of my favorites for the night and perhaps gets top billing. The color is a bright lollipop raspberry. Flavors of cranberry and pomegranate are full on with an earthy, chalky, minerally background.
The vinification of this wine is unique to the Champagne region. They use three different vinification processes to make this wine including 30% maceration, 10% red wine, and 60% white wine of which 40% is from the previous two vintage reserve wines aged in barrels. It is my first 100% Meunier, and I love it.
Side Note: Blending red and white wines to make a rosé wine (still or sparkling) is not permitted anywhere in Europe except in the Champagne AOP. Alas, it is the preferred method in Champagne.
Side Note: Yes, white wine can be made from red grapes as these varieties all produce a clear juice. Thus, the color comes from contact with the red grape skin in the case of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.
Laherte Les Empreintes, Extra Brut 2012
Prodigal Farm Spring Fever & Sequatchie Cove Shakerag Bleu Cheeses
If ever there was a wine dinner that should end with a cheese course, it is this one. The cheeses selected from local purveyor Counter Cheese Caves were excellent. First up was Spring Fever from Prodigal Farm, Rougemont, NC. It is a cow’s milk cheese with a bloomy rind and a crumbly, yet creamy texture. Puff pastry triangles topped with field greens were the accompaniment.
The champagne served with this course is the Laherte Les Empreintes, Extra Brut 2012 ($79.00). The wine is a blend of 50% Chardonnay muscaté and 50% Pinot Noir. It was a real treat to taste this rare vintage champagne. They do not happen very often and when they do, they may be in such small amounts that it never leaves Chavot, let along France.
There is something else that makes this wine seem special to me. Perhaps I am just sentimental but the vineyards surround the family home and their planting coincides with the birth of Aurélien’s father and Aurélien, himself. The Chardonnay block was planted in 1957 by Aurélien’s grandfather and that year Aurélien’s father was born. The Pinot Noir block was planted in 1983 by Aurélien’s father. And that was the year that Aurélien was born. I do not know but that gives me goosebumps.
The second cheese was Shakerag Blue from Sequatchie Cove Creamery in Sequatchie, TN. It is an extraordinary combination of buttery richness, earthy spice, and intense fruitiness and served with roasted grapes and focaccia.
Like all of his other champagnes, this wine has cleansing acidity, medium to full body with green apple, citrus (in this case lime) salinity and minerality on the palate.
The pastry chef did not want the meal to end without a touch of sweetness, so she sent us home with a housemade macaron.
These wines were a huge hit with everyone in attendance. If you ever have an opportunity to attend a champagne dinner such as this, JUST DO IT. It was such a fantastic experience.
All of these bottles are sold at Edmund’s Oast Exchange at 1081-B Morrison Dr, Charleston, SC 29403 PH: (843) 990-9449
That is all for now.
Don’t forget that it is t-shirt season. Time to get your favorite wine or coffee Tee.