Founded in Riems in 1776, the same year that saw the birth of the United States of America, Louis Roederer is still an independent family-owned business.
Although best known for the iconic Cristal, synonymous with indulgence and hype, courtesy of the likes of Jay Z, P Diddy and Posh and Becks, the big seller with James Nicholson Wine Merchant, Roederer’s NI supplier, is Roederer Brut Non Vintage (NV). This is a fabulous Champagne. In the words of Jancis Robinson: “I have yet to experience a bottle of Louis Roederer Brut Premier that did not taste deliciously superior and ready to drink.” Don’t just take her word for it – here’s Jane Macquitty of the Times:“ Brut Premier is a distinctive black grapes-dominated champagne with around one-third chardonnay and a noticeable proportion of oak-aged reserve wines in the blend. The end result is a rich, fruity, honeyed champagne with a fine waxy, biscuity finish”.
Louis Roederer policy is driven by a commitment to quality and the production of a consistent style that always takes precedence over quantity. Production volumes depend on expert vineyard management, a rigid set of qualitative criteria and nature’s willingness to play ball.
The Court Interior at Louis Roederer
Control of the quality of the grapes remains the key factor for Louis Roederer. Two thirds of the total always comes from the estate-owned vineyards and meticulous care is taken to conserve the character of the individual wines whose infinite distinctions will enrich the composition of the cuvée.
Yields from each individual parcel, village or cru are always vinified separately, partly in small tanks & partly in wooden vats. The period of maturation on lees is twice as long as traditionally applied in champagne.
Then there are the finishing touches: the addition of the superb reserve wines that only the House of Louis Roederer ages in oak vats; the meticulous selection of a remarkable range of dosage liqueurs and the ever-long ageing of the wines in the cellar after disgorgement.
Brut Premier is the embodiment of Louis Roederer style, combining all the fruitiness and freshness of youth with the vinosity of a fully mature wine. This is a structured and elegantly mature wine with as lively attack and a smooth palate.
Louis Roederer Champagne
A couple of years ago I was flush enough to buy a case of Coudoulet de Beaucastel en primeur (an arrangement where you buy wine before it is bottled and postpone Vat and Duty payment until you receive the wine). The 2007 vintage in the Rhône had been widely flagged as exceptional, being described by US wine guru Robert Parker as the “vintage of a lifetime”. Although the Coudoulet is a humble Côtes du Rhône, its pedigree is unassailable, coming from the renowned Chateau de Beaucastel of Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
When my case arrived in late 2009, I couldn’t wait to try the wine and opened a bottle that evening. It was something of a disappointment – pretty tannic with a few rough edges and not really hanging together very well – a wine scribe with a liking for hyperbole would have deemed it “an exuberant youngster for whom age will bring maturity”. More experienced colleagues were aghast that I had been so precipitant - leave it for another 2 years, I was advised.
Chateau de Beaucastel
Well, when the 2 years were up, I tucked in again and sure enough the precocious teen had come of age. Rich and opulent, the Coudoulet showed lovely blackberry fruit, herbs and savoury, meaty flavours. This is a wine to sit back and enjoy on a cold winter evening in front of a log fire. It’s what you could describe as a complex wine in that it has layers of flavours with little hints of fruits, herbs, flowers and vegetal matter that are often very difficult to pin down to anything specific.
The 2009 Rhône vintage looks like being as good as 2007 so why not join me in swooping in for a couple of cases of Coudoulet en primeur – give the Fine Wine staff at James Nicholson’s a call and treat yourself to a stunning wine – not until 2012 or so though.
Louis Roederer Champagne, Value for Money
I am just back from 24 hours in Champagne and have to say I am now a believer that champagne is actually good value for money. Did you know most of the Champagne houses have to buy in their grapes? This year the price is €6.00 per kilo.. Louis Roederer however own a large number of vineyards which means they rarely purchase grapes. Not only does this give them complete control over the vines and grapes but it also saves them a fortune each vintage, 90 % of their vineyards are in Grand Cru sites. They are obsessed about their Champagne house style which means their wines are always consistently good.
Champagne is legally not allowed to be released on to the market until it has had 15 months ageing however Louis Roederer champagne do not release their Brut Premier until it is a minimum of 3 years old. The Brut Premier includes 10-15% of their reserve wines which come from 100% Grand Cru sites and are aged in large wooden barrels/casks for 6 years plus.
Louis Roederer Cristal Champagne
It strikes me if you are looking for a luxury product like Champagne that it is worth doing a little bit of homework and that £30 + is not bad value for the end product when it comes from a house that takes as much care as Louis Roederer Champagne. To be honest good champagne is not expensive in comparison to what one would pay for a cru classes from Bordeaux and many wines from Burgundy. I know what I will be drinking this Christmas.
View all our champagnes by Louis Roederer
On our recent visit to Burgundy we had the pleasure of meeting Patrick Javillier and his daughter Marion at their winery in Meursault. The Javilliers are very charming people who make very charming wines. Amongst others, Patrick makes 2 Bourgogne Blanc wines – Cuvée des Forgets and Cuvée Oligocène as well as a Meursault called Les Tillets. (Marion is in charge of the reds).
The two Bourgogne Blancs were delicious, in different ways. The video shows Patrick explaining in some detail the provenance of the two wines and why they are so distinctive. For those who are fairly new to the white wines of burgundy, they make an interesting comparison. The joy of Burgundy is that so many facets of the Chardonnay grape can find their expression. Factors such as soil type, vine age, the aspect of the vineyard, the treatment in the winery, use of oak barrels and so on all have a role to play in the taste of the bottled wine. Consequently you can find flavours ranging from mineral tones to toast and butter to floral flavours to citrus fruit to ripe stone fruit characters all to varying degrees in each wine. This is what makes white Burgundy so interesting, so unique and so pleasurable to drink. This kind of complexity and subtlety is rare in other parts of the world. It’s fascinating to see how the same sorts of flavours can be present in each wine but the experience of drinking them is completely different – it’s a case of which characters are more dominant in the wine. Richer, fuller flavours tend to marry more harmoniously with the warmth and depth that oak ageing can bring whereas the lighter, leaner wines require more subtle oak treatment, if any at all. In this case, the Cuvée Oligocène is richer, and the Cuvée des Forgets is lighter and more mineral in style. Amongst our group, the votes for a favourite were evenly divided.
Patrick Javillier in the vineyard and the cellar at his Domaine
The Meursault was a real treat. Leaner and more elegant than many Meursault wines, it had a touch of minerality to balance the richness.
Once you’ve figured out what kind of characters you like the best, it’s easier to find more wines that you will enjoy. We are lucky enough to have Marion Javillier coming along to our tasting at the Merchant Hotel on 28th October, so don’t miss the opportunity to come along and meet her and try the wines.
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