August 2019. The incredible heat of the Greek summer drives us further north. A trip to Champagne is the secret desire in every winelover’s agenda. Planning the journey, the thoughts goes into cellars, secret wine making and millions of bubbles. We arrive in Basel. Following the A35 and admiring the beautiful Alsatian vineyards, we reach Nancy. A refreshing stop at Stanislas Square, gives us the opportunity to starting dreaming. But the GPS has another opinion. Driving on the N4 we cross the vineyards of Chalons en Champagne. You feel it, the atmosphere has changed. Reims is so close. In Reims champagne is everywhere. It’s a whole world, combining the luxury of the greatest Champagne Houses, like «Louis Roederer». Next morning to the flagship Maison, the tour and visits manager Mrs Aida Dudas tell us the great story of this legendary Champagne House.
«Louis Roederer» was founded in 1776. The innovative Champagne house was inherited and renamed by Louis Roederer in 1833. An aesthete and an entrepreneur, the new owner took the visionary decision to expand his vineyard in order to master every stage of winemaking process, in doing so, he forged the wine’s unique style, character and taste. In the mid- 19th century, by acquiring some Grand Cru vineyards in Champagne, Louis Roederer went against the conventions of the time. He nurtured his vineyard, developed an understanding of the specific characteristics of each parcel and methodically acquired the best vineyards. Believing that a great wine depends on the quality of its soil, respect for tradition and a clear vision of the future, Louis Roederer laid the foundation of the Champagne House that bears his name today.
This quest for the diversity of terroirs, crus, parcels and grape varieties in the vineyards, or climates to use the Burgudian expression, was rapidly intergrated by Louis Roederer’s House and became a “new” tradition. This strategy of acquiring parcels according to their capacity to produce distinctive characteristics in a wine, has become standard practice and is still a core development strategy for the House.
Today «Louis Roederer» vineyards comprice 240 hectares. This precise and prudent selectivity has led to the creation of several estates.
The «Blanc de Blancs Vintage» Estate is mainly located in the Grand Cru vineyard of Avize. These parcels were selected for their character and capacity to produce intense, rich and mineral Chardonnays. The «Blanc de Blancs 2011» we tasted during our visit, was more earthly than fruity and reveals a chiselled and taut palate complexity and delicate texture found only in the finest local limestone terroir.
The «Vintage» Estate comprises parcels in the commune of Verzenay. Here the pronounced northern character of the Pinot Noir is cultivated, which produces taut wines with distinct freshness and almost salty minerality. The cuvee Vintage 2012 (70% Pinot Noir & 30% Chardonnay) was bottle-aged for 4 years before being left rest for a further 6 month later disgorging in order to attain perfect maturity. Color golden, yellow and soft amber tints. Very bright and gentle sparkle, silky, soft and rich.
The «Rose Vintage» Estate comprises parcels on very sunny slopes in the commune of Cumieres. This strong light helps the Pinot Noir to attain optimal maturity with an intense fruitiness and dense, winey texture. Made from the blend of around 70% Pinot Noir 30% Chardonnay, 20% of which is matured in oak tuns, the «Rose Vintage» cuvee is aged on its lees for an average of 4 years and left settle for a minimum of 6 months after disgorging in order to reach optimum maturity. Luis Roederer combines the two methods used in region: maceration and bleeding. The Chardonnay juices are poured into macerating Pinot noir and fermented in order to combine them harmoniously.
«Brut Premier» benefits from a combination of all this richness, as it is a spiritual and complex blend of wines and vintages resulting from the diversity of these unique terroirs. Is a blend of around 40% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay and 20% Meunier. Is made from wines matures in oak tuns, produced from the three Champagne grape variety in various crus. It is aged for 3 years in the cellar and left to settle for a minimum of 6 months after disgorging. This champagne offers a direct and precise yet juicy, fresh style. Aromas of citrus fruit, zesty notes combined with soft tones of grilled hazelnuts and heady acacia flowers. After aeration, the wine develops hints of fresh wood, subtle spices like pepper and cardamom, cocoa beans and honey nougat which add depth.
The «Cristal» Estate consists of parcels in the commune of Verzenay, Verzy, Beaumont-sur-Vesle, Ay, Mareuil-sur-Ay, Avize, Cramant and Mesnil-sur-Oger. The wines from these terroirs are exceptional fine and precise. These qualities give Cristal the unique and precious character that has forged its unrivalled reputation.
Cristal was born in the city of coronation of the Kings of France, in Reims, for the pleasure of Tsar Alexander II. In 1876 Louis Roederer was 31 years old. He loved travelling and he adored Russia. As for Russia’s Tsar Alexander II, he sought to acquite the very finest wines and regularly dispatched an emissary from his palace to the Louis Roederer cellars in Reims, in order to reserve his champagnes. He soon decided that he needed his own personal champagne. «Louis Roederer» therefore set about selecting the finest parcels from the vineyards, made up of old vines planted in limestone soils, and created a transparent, crystal bottle with flat base. From then on, the Tsar would only drink Cristal champagne, with its prestigious bottle adorned with the imperial coat of arms, which has remained virtually unchanged to this day. Cristal was the first ever prestige cuvee and it’s extraordinary past and elegance have earned it international renown and admiration. The release of a new vintage gently punctuates the life of the Champagne House. Cristal is still made from the «Louis Roederer Estate’s» old vines, all of which are classified Grand Cru. They are planted in 45 outstanding lieux-dits and cover 89 hectares of land. These parcels have been gradually acquired by Roederer family since 1845 and are now custom grown using methods inspired by biodynamic principles. Cristal is a champagne worth waiting for, crafter by time and a unique chalky soil. It is a naturally fine champagne providing immense drinking pleasure. «The arrival of Cristal 2008, however, marked the start of new and unique chapter in the exciting story of the jewel of the Louis Roederer House known for its savoir-faire and the care and attention it lavishes on its vines», (Michel Janneau).
Cristal was served at state dinners and learnt how to speak all the diplomatic languages fluently. Not just the champagne of the Tsar’s, but now also the champagne of the Stars, it takes pride of place on the wine lists of Michelin-starred restaurants around the world. Cristal constantly reinvents itself and has moved effortlessly into 21st century without losing its unique spirit and chalky purity. This is the story of the mythical champagne.