Family traditions: Champagne Louis Roederer


Family traditions: Champagne Louis Roederer

Louis Roederer is one of the historic champagne houses: we went to visit the company, the vineyards and to taste their magnificent champagnes.

A sunny garden in Ay, one of the symbolic municipalities of Champagne , on a day that perfectly describes the end of an unusually dry and hot summer for these latitudes.roederer, historic champagne houseClimate change in all its worrying splendor: while almost 30 degrees and an ultramarine sky shine here, at the same time in Rome a violent storm is breaking down and flooding the city. Ironically, compared to the citizens of the capital, liquids that are certainly more interesting than the vital rainwater are reviewed in the glass. The garden is that of the nearir of Louis Roederer, one of the 3 sites where the historic maison presses the grapes suitable for becoming champagne. This is but the last step of a journey that has touched various themes, from history to the environment (and therefore the climate), up to the tangible proof, in liquid form, of what the seasons have characterized in a territory. as prestigious as it is looking for a future with ever greener hues.

History

Roederer is one of only four maison today in Champagne that still belongs to the descendants of its founder , becoming unique when, in its very long history,control of the house has been in the hands of the same family since 1776the control of the maison has been continuous, independent and totally in the hands of the same family since 1776 . It was in 1833 that Louis Roederer decided to go against the current of the customs of the region: while everyone bought the grapes from the winemakers, he focused on the best vineyards available in order to be able to totally control the production cycle.. A choice that turned out to be successful, such as that of planting only Pinot Noir and Chardonnay because they are considered the only vines suitable for long-aging wines (Meunier is still the only vine purchased today). In this way, as early as 1860, the maison reached the milestone of 2 million bottles, or 10% of all Champagne production (compared to 1.4% today and a production not even doubled), and Roederer became synonymous with excellent quality , so much so that already in 1870, thanks to Louis Roederer II, the roads for exports to the United States and Russia were opened.

In particular, it is due to Tsar Alexander II and the fear of suffering yet another attack, the birth, in 1876 , of the oldest cuvée de prestige: the Russian sovereign asked Roederer to have a personalized champagne , with a transparent bottle in order to identify any sediments of a poisoning and with a flat bottom to prevent hiding in the hollow, typical of champenois bottles , explosives or other weapons. The solution? A very thick flat bottom, also to compensate for the loss of resistance to pressure, and a bottle entirely in crystal made specifically in Belgium: thus a myth was born, thus the Cristal was born .

With phylloxera, the October revolution in Russia, the world war and US prohibition, things changed drastically in the Roederer house (and beyond): the two main markets collapsed suddenly and the maison risked bankruptcy. léon olry’s wife relaunched cristal in 1947It was thanks to Léon Olry Roederer that, in 1920 , a much less expensive champagne was developed than the vintage produced up to now and with the most popular price, which could also benefit from all the wines in the cellar: thus the Brut Premier was born , that which over time has become the maison’s business card and which allowed it to be relaunched. After Léon Olry’s death, his wife Camille, a woman of great temperament, very skilled in public relations, took over. Following the financial crisis of 1929, he decided to respond with a blow to effect: relaunch the Cristal . No longer in the crystal bottle, of course, but in a glass bottle that traces its characteristics; it was 1932but, with the Second World War, the marketing of the first vintage slipped to 1947 . Having no children, Camille left the helm to his nephew Jean-Claude Rouzaud: agronomist and oenologist by training, he decided to put the precious heritage of vineyards back at the center of the maison, starting to set up a work that led to what is today the important biodynamic turning point put into practice by his son Frédéric since 2006 , the seventh generation of the family, with the simultaneous expansion of the property through the purchase of companies both in France and abroad. A result that we will find directly between the rows and, subsequently, in the glass.

The art of Champagne

Before sinking your feet between the rows, you descend into the kingdom of Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon : the cellars built in 1865 in the heart of Reims, an underground maze of 7 km in which about 27 million bottles rest. Everything has remained as it was originally thought by Louis Roederer: on the ground floor the bottling and containers of various kinds used for fermentation; the reserve wines are kept at the lower level; in the last level the bottles rest for maturation. Apparently very simple, nothing extremely complex. Except to discover that every single parcel (of the 410 owned) is vinified separately, that the bunches coming from the youngest Cristal vines, those less than 25 years old, are vinified separately and used as liquer d’expedition . And that upstream the vines are all from mass selection coming from the company nursery, unique in Champagne, within which there is the largest and most important clonal variety of Pinot Noir.

The technical details follow one another: no addition of sugars in fermentation (the so-called chaptalisation ) and these are started through a foot de cuve (i.e. by previously fermenting a small part of must that works as an activator) and no malolactic fermentation carried out to soften the natural acidity (except in rare cases and for limited quantities of wine). From here you go down to the reserve wine library, a real treasure preserved in 150 wooden barrels (including some of these dedicated to liqueur d’expedition which are kept for 15 years), equivalent to 1.5 million bottles, all obviously dedicated to the Brut Premier(in a measure of 10% for each vintage). An investment of this magnitude, dedicated to the cheapest product in the range and which annually is produced in about 3 million bottles, would theoretically be an uneconomic system; not for an independent, family-run maison that aims to maintain style and respect its own history.

We go down again to breathe the charm of Cristal : 2012 is resting, with the remuage operations – rotation of the bottles on the pupitre clockwise and counterclockwise according to a very precise scheme – entirely manual. A work of patience and waiting, the contribution of man to the realization of the magic that champagne and few other wines in the world can give. The darkness and the constant temperature, the absence of vibrations and the silence accompany us in a maze of bubbles.

The vineyards

And so we went out to see the stars again , or rather the vineyards. Ben 240 hectares owned by 3.5000000 to 4,000,000 bottles; among these, 140 hectares of biodynamic decree Roederer as the largest organic producer in the region .starck provided his vision of champagne to jean baptiste lécaillonThe first stop is the Les Chèvres di Cumières vineyard , a 1er Cru village in the Marne Valley, facing south from which the Brut Nature is born with the collaboration of Philippe Starck. Since the first edition in 2006 with a first experiment in 2003, the designer has provided his own vision of champagne (obviously entrusting Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon with the liquid translation of his intuitions). To carry out his umpteenth design, it was decided to draw from here, from one of the few vines planted in a promiscuous way and whose bunches are collected and pressed together only when the Pinot Noir reaches maturity. A champagne born and designed to be non-dosed, thanks to the Les Chèvres grapes and their maturation that comes in a more intense way than other crus, selecting them only in the hottest and richest vintages. A vineyard with plants dating back to 1920 and with a strong biodynamic root, having been purchased by the maison Leclerc Briant, famous for the work done there by Hervé Jestin,

From here we move on to the myth, to the Cristal vineyard : it is at the gates of Ay and is called Goutte d’or , the golden drop: a perfectly exposed garden, with the oldest plants dating back to 1959. It is the triumph of Pinot Noir and a road divides the parcel dedicated to Cristal Rosé from that of Cristal: a weighted choice based on the composition of the soil and already from the tasting of the grapes you can perceive the reason for this division. From here the palate demands even greater concreteness through the glass.

The chalice

Independence, tradition, family and biodynamics condensed in what is a succession of tastings that brings out another aspect that has never been underestimated, but which has indeed been a discreet presence throughout the journey: the style, the identity of a maison that has consistently sought to pursue its own vision of champagne. More or less everywhere you will hear reference to the concept of elegance, much more difficult to see it really applied, such as in the Rosé Vintage 2013 (67% Pinot Noir – 33% Chardonnay): with an orange-powder color, as defined by the maison, it is a rosé obtained directly in the press, therefore without the addition of red wine, in which the olfactory elegance that plays on mandarin, orange and raspberries is perfectly matched in the mouth, subtle and fresh in revealing the late vintage.

Vintage 2012 is more structured and complex , of the same composition: immediately gunpowder, cheeky and fascinating, then the game between yellow and red fruit becomes captivating with peach and plum that fade into orange. A full, tasty savory sip, more meaty and sensual than the rosé counterpart but never yielding in tension and juice. Here the generous vintage manifests itself in all its muscular pride.

On another register the Blanc de Blancs Vintage 2011 , obviously from Chardonnay grapes in purity: tapered, direct, dry despite having the same dosage of the previous wines (8 gr / l), manages to be the photograph of the chalky soils of Avize with mineral sensations and white and fresh floral, with lemon and lime for a territorial hymn in perfect response to the palate.

The Brut Nature 2009 (⅓ Chardonnay, ⅔ between Pinot Noir and Meunier) testifies with the hot and dry vintage the maison’s intentions: to make a champagne that can be drunk in the absence of dosage thinking it already from the vineyard, excluding any technique to soften it, including the more easily conceivable malolactic fermentation. All to be faithful to the Roederer style and, at the same time, to follow the intuitions and inspirations of Philippe Starck. The result is a champagne introverted to the nose, dark, mineral, intense, with ripe fruit that returns to the sip, sharp, powerful without being unnecessarily angular.

His Majesty Cristal 2009 is always true to himself and is always 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay. following the vintage it is welcoming and soft, silky and chiseled, an embroidery of acidity in the sip runs through it suggesting not to wait too long to drink it, a Cristal that will, as always, have a happy evolution but that can be enjoyed right now. To these tastings, others have followed, among which an extraordinary and very young couple made up of Blanc de Blancs and Vintage in the magnificent 2008 vintage and, to close, an unforgettable Cristal 2002 . To understand that nothing is accidental and everything leads back to independence, tradition, family and biodynamics.


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