I must confess my hand was forced with Roederer. As my love affair with Champagne kicked off in the late 90s, Cristal was kicking off in a different way. Lining the shelves of nightclubs and pictures of Jay Z it was, in the trade, positively uncool to drink never mind appreciate it. Sadly for me it meant that I very rarely got the chance to try it as it never joined in tastings and my then limited budget could not stretch to afford it. It wasn’t until 2006 when the Managing director, Frédéric Rouzaud, got in a tangled mess with the likes of Jay-Z, accusing them of being ‘unwelcome attention’ that I was able to return. Having a few pennies in the bank also helped. It was at this point that the name ‘Louis Roederer’ caused even more confusion in my head. On the one hand they produce stunning, truly stunning wines, with at least one sitting in my top ten of all time. Sadly though on the other hand, I have been let down by a lot of sub standard wines and wines that are simply unexciting.
I must confess Roederer is not the only producer that creates this sensation but when you consider the weight of expectation that comes with the likes of Cristal you can understand my frustration. Anyway, more of that later…
My first visit to Roederer sadly did not go quite to plan. Speeding down the motorway a call came through;
“Mr Crawford, where are you? Mr Lecaillon is waiting” a voice stated.
“ummm, erghhh, on a motorway three hours north of you. I thought our meeting was tomorrow?”. I asked with a lot of hope in my voice.
It was not.
My next meeting, sadly not with the great winemaker, went to plan, as I checked, double checked and even triple checked the date.
Like so often with wineries, it was this meeting that opened my eyes to what Roederer is and certainly calmed some of my fears…although didn’t quite mask them all.
The house was founded in 1776 but was inherited by Louis Roederer in 1833. The great visionary spent much of his time acquiring substantial holdings in Grand Cru and Premier Cru vineyards which comprised of over 100 hectares by 1850. His son Louis Roederer II started exporting to the Russian and American market in the 1870s and fashioned the now famous ‘Cristal’ decanter for the Tsar in 1876. Made by Flemish master glass workers it was designed so that nothing dangerous could be concealed within the bottle.
Sadly, for Roederer, the tide of events that led to the collapse of the Russian empire, and the ensuing World War ravaged both sales and then the vineyards. The estate was taken on through this troubling time by Leon Olry-Roederer but, as is so often the case in Champagne, he passed away leaving to his widow; Camille. She ran the house with a flamboyant edge and handed the reins over to her grandson, Jean-Claude Rouzaud, who’s son, Frederic, now runs the estate. Now on it’s 7th generation and with 240 hectares of vineyards it is still independently owned and run.
One of my first discoveries, and I may be late to the table with this one, is that every Roederer vintage wine is made from it’s own vineyards. The Blanc de Blancs, Rose Vintage, Vintage, Cristal and Cristal Rose. It is only the Brut Premier that has bought in grapes added to it. Dating back to the original acquisition of vineyards in Verzenay by Louis Roederer in 1845 it is a precise and prudent selection of what Roederer refer to as their ‘four estates’ that align each village to a vintage wine. Subsequently Roederer have been purchasing more vineyards to make up these vintage wines.
I have had my reservations about Brut Premier from the very first time that I tried it. For me it, sometimes, lacks precision seeming flabby and diluted. When we sat down to try the range I was stunned to see the Brut Premier being put last…after Cristal. This was going to be fascinating.
Brut Nature was born out a realisation that change is coming. Back in 2003 Roederer began to understand that with hot years came problems, but also opportunities. Great potential was seen in a number of vineyards in Cumieres, Hautvillers and Vertus. Vineyards that sit on calcareous clay, rich in hard, coarse sandstone. With the hotter vintages they sought aromatic, intense wines with both a creamy texture and a vibrant freshness. The wine is, by it’s very ‘nature’ astringent and fresh and does not undergo malolactic fermentation. It is vinified in oak. Tests were made with the 2003, 2004 and 2005 vintages but the first vintage which went to market was the 2006, made in collaboration with the artist Philippe Starck. A 2/3 blend of Pinot Noir and 1/3 Chardonnay it is fresh, elegant, pure, mineral. For me it lacks the depth that I search for but I suspect with a little bottle age this will come. The 2009 hit the market this year…I await a taste.
When ever I see the words ‘Blanc de Blancs’ on a Grande Marque I get excited. Roederer has nailed it with this delightful wine. Creamy, pure, aromatic, light and fresh. It is made from two crus; Mesnil sur Oger and Avize. The interest and beauty of this wine comes, for me, from just how different each vintage is. The 2010, presently on release is all acacia and white flowers whereas the 2008 was all taut acidity and power. The wine, interestingly, is made with less sugar in the second fermentation so has a delightfully delicate mousse.
Cristal just released too early
Region: La Montagne de Reims
Cuvée De Prestige: Cristal
Parent Group: Family-owned
Year Founded: 1776
Recent Tasting Notes from Louis Roederer
Louis Roederer Brut Premier
Tasted:July 4, 2015
Lovely light gold. Good stream of bubbles. Real brioche hit on the nose. Warm toasty palate developing a lovely touch of swee …read more…
Louis Roederer Rose Vintage 2009
Tasted:March 11, 2015
Delicate salmon orange. Lovely fruit with that hint of orange peel just on the back. Good weight.read more…