I was lucky enough to be invited to the amazing Louis Roederer estate in Reims last month, late May 2018. Getting up early is never easy , but 4.30 AM is great time for the soul. No Commuters, birds tweeting, the world waking up and life just about to start for the day. Just a shame I had to walk to the Underground with my eyes shut!
No problems on the Tube and everything at Customs went quickly and efficiently. On the train, the usual business meetings are happening with lots of convivial chatter. As I take in the Kent countryside swooshing past the window, I feel a sense of jubilation. Louis Roederer has been on my radar for a while and finally I am on my way. So I begin to wonder, despite the hour, if a glass of Champagne when I am offered is in fact appropriate. I refrain this time – its still a little early. even for the GW!
It’s all thanks to Alexandra at Maisons Marques et Domaines (LR Distributor in the UK), that I am finally ticking this House off my “Tours at the Most Coveted Vineyards” bucket list.
Upon arrival I am greeted warmly by Maria at L.R. who gives me a fun-packed tour of the Headquarters and what a great experience it is! I feel like I am the kid that won the golden ticket touring the Willy Wonka factory!
It’s so great to learn more first hand about a world-class producer and especially one so respected by the industry itself. There are many producers making unadventurous, bland champagnes for the mass consumer. But LR is not one of them. LR produces special wines with distinctive characteristics. What a pleasure to be here!
Louis Roederer is now managed by the seventh generation, led by Frédéric Rouzaud and is one of very few independent, family-run Houses remaining today, producing over 3.5 million bottles and shipping to over 100 countries.
Starting out as Dubois Père & Fils in 1776, Louis Roederer inherited and renamed his Uncle’s House in 1833. In contrast to the practices of his time, Louis decided to invest in his own vines with the idea to master the end to end process of creating vintage wines. Owning his own vines gave him control of quality and led to particularly distinctive characteristics, establishing L R’s reputation as one of Champagnes best producers.
By 1876, production had reached 2.5 million bottles, 10% of total production of Champagne and exporting had begun to Russia. Viewed by many as the world’s first prestige cuvées, Cristal was in fact created at the request of Tsar Alexander II, for exclusive consumption of the Royal Household. It remained exclusive until 1945 when Cristal was first launched commercially for the rest of the world to enjoy!
Back in 1876 and as the political situation worsened, the Tsar feared assassination and requested that his Champagne was bottled in clear glass so that he could see the bubbles and prevent anyone hiding a bomb in the punt (GW note: a punt is a Champagne bottle’s characteristic bottom recess or hollow). Louis Roederer commissioned a Flemish bottle maker to create a clear lead glass Champagne bottle with a flat bottom and its why today the bottle is still wrapped individually in its now distinctive yellow cellophane to protect the wine from UV light.
From the acquisition of those first 15 hectares of vines in the Grand Cru vineyards of Verzenay in 1845, LR’s vineyards now stretch across 240 hectares or just under 600 Rugby sized pitches. All their vintage Champagne originates from these vines – 410 individual parcels of land to be precise. Their distinctive characteristics are very much a product of thr provenance of each vineyard as they are able to
The Montagne de Reims, The Vallée de la Marne, and The Côte des Blancs. (see below)
Their Champagne involves all 3 classic grape varieties
- Chardonnay for its minerality, finesse, and elegance;
- Pinot Noir adds structure, complexity and is useful for ageing;
- Pinot Meunier brings harmony and softness and a hint of rustic to certain cuvées
Last but not least the WINES !
Here I’ve listed my top 4 wines from LR. There are of course more wines to the estate but the ones that stand out for me are highlighted below.
The freshness, finesse, and brightness of Brut Premier makes it the perfect wine for festive occasions. Its is structured, rich and has a good length.
After the upheavals of the First World War that destroyed more than half of the LR estate, Léon Olry Roederer reconstructed the new vineyards by buying grapes externally to ensure survival of the House during this difficult period. He created multi-vintage wine with a consistent flavour, whatever the harvest year.
It is now called Brut Premier.
A blend of around 40% Pinot noir, 40% Chardonnay, and 20% Pinot Meunier. It is aged for 3 years in LR’s cellars and left for a minimum of 6 months after dégorgement (Removing frozen yeast after second fermentation in the bottle )
Louis Roederer Vintage
In my opinion, their flagship Champagne which best represents the LR terroir and the finesse, purity and precision of their wine-making skills is Louis Roederer Vintage
LR uses the structure and power of the Pinot noir grapes from the Montagne de Reims (see map) to create its Cuvée Vintage. Exposed to the north-east, the grapes mature more slowly on the vine and the character of the wine intensifies and becomes more refined through ageing – if the vines were exposed to the South East it would be perfect aspect for the grapes to grow. Hence the slowing down of the maturing process
Composed of around 70% Pinot noir and 30% Chardonnay, 30% the Vintage cuvée is generally matured on lees for 4 years and left for a minimum of 6 months after dégorgement (disgorging) to attain perfect maturity.
The palate is characteristic of LR’s vintages: a rich and winey fullness is refined by the sweetness, acidity and tight blend of the Pinot noir grapes of Verzenay. Tasting reveals sparkling suggestions of candied fruits, almond paste, toast, white chocolate, and caramel
Blanc de Blanc Vintage
This Champagne is pure and bright. Its contrasting tones range from an intense, chiselled acidity to the supple lightness of notes of fresh hazelnuts, almonds, and white flowers with accents of acacia, broom, and honeysuckle.
100% Chardonnay, the Blanc de Blancs Vintage cuvée is generally matured on lees for five years and left for a minimum of 6 months after dégorgement.
In the mouth, the attack is typically Chardonnay—it is smooth and delicate, and markedly sweet. Slightly sweetened floral notes and white fruit and dried fruit notes are combined with the almost chalky minerality of the Côte des Blancs.
The texture has notes of sugared almond, a sensation that is strengthened by a soft effervescence that envelops the mouth. This is followed by an impression of finesse, elegance, and freshness, strengthened by suggestions of fresh mint and basil.
Cristal is both powerful and delicate, combining subtlety and precision.
LR’s most famous wine was created in 1876 to satisfy the demanding tastes of Tsar Alexander II. The emperor asked Louis Roederer to reserve the House’s best cuvée for him every year. To distinguish this cuvée, this exceptional champagne came in a flat-bottomed, transparent lead-crystal bottle. The new brand was named after this precious material, which is particularly transparent and luminous.
Produced uniquely during the best years, when the Chardonnay (around 40%) and Pinot noir (around 60%) grapes have attained perfect maturity, Cristal is aged for 6 years in LR’s cellars and left for a further 8 months after dégorgement.
Cristal is a remarkably balanced and refined champagne. It has a silky texture and fruity aromas, complemented by a powerful mineral quality with white fruit and citrus notes. Cristal is a wine that keeps well: it can be conserved for over twenty years without losing its freshness and character.
THE 2002 HARVEST
2002 was an extraordinary harvest, in which all the criteria for a great vintage in Champagne were met: temperatures were uniformly warm, without excess sun or heat, with a markedly mild winter and a slight shortfall of rain during the growing cycle.
This is regarded as the best year in the last 20.
BUY BUY BUY!
GW BEST CHAMPAGNE VINTAGE YEARS
BEST to worst
If you want something special go for the top row , something more affordable is 2nd third and fourth row.
Sadly due to last-minute events, just before I arrived the – Chef De Cave – Louis Roederer’s Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon was unable to have an interview with Me. I am still hopeful and have submitted the questions for Jean-Baptiste to answer on his return
Stay tuned for interview when it’s posted.
Below are question submitted but not answered