The Louis Roederer champagne house - producer of the famous prestige cuvee, Cristal - has one of the longest histories in the region, dating back to 1776. Today it is owned and managed by Frederic Rouzaud, a direct descendant of Louis Roederer. The 240 hectares of vineyards are located in Grand and Premier Cru sites. Estate grown grapes are used to produce all of the Roederer vintage wines, and they account for a minimum of 50% of the Brut Premier NV. Cristal was first produced at the request of Tsar Alexander II of Russia in 1876. Today it is made only in exceptional vintages, and is one of the earliest prestige cuvees in Champagne to be released onto the market. The Roederer vintage wines represent excellent value for money.
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Louis Roederer Brut Premier NV
40% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay, 20% Meunier. The grapes come from more than 40 plots. The wine is a blend of 6 different years, and 30% is from reserve wines (20% tank, 10% barrel). 5% is matured in oak casks with weekly batonnage. Malolactic fermentation typically occurs in around 30% of the wines in the blend. It is aged for 3 years and rested for 6 months after disgorgement.
Louis Roederer Brut Nature Vintage
Approximately two-thirds Pinot noir and one-third Chardonnay from a single vintage. The grapes used for this cuvee come from soils that are rich in hard, coarse sandstone in the villages of Cumieres, Hautvillers and Vertus. The potential of these sites was made clear after the excessively hot 2003 vintage, when the vines had no trouble coping with drought and excessively high temperatures, and still produced wines with freshness. This cuvee was first released from the 2006 vintage, and is intended to express purity of terroir, with no malolactic fermentation, and no dosage.
Louis Roederer Vintage
70% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay. No malolactic fermentation. 30% of the wine is matured in oak casks with weekly batonnage. The Vintage Brut is matured for at least 4 years and rested for 6 months after disgorgement.
Louis Roederer Rose Vintage
65% Pinot Noir, 35% Chardonnay. No malolactic fermentation. 20% matured in oak barrels with weekly batonnage. Roederer always uses the saignee method, following cold maceration on the skins, which may last 5 to 8 days. Jean Baptiste makes this wine using 100% saignee with Pinot Noir, then adds the must of Chardonnay (they may be the only producer in Champagne to use this method). The Brut Rose cuvee ages for an average of 4 years, and spends 6 months resting after disgorgement.
Louis Roederer Blanc de Blancs Vintage
100% Chardonnay. No malolactic fermentation. 15-25% aged in oak barrels with weekly batonnage. The Blanc de Blancs cuvee is drawn at low pressure (4.5 ATM) for a rounder, fuller sparkle. The dosage is adjusted according to the vintage to between 8-10 grams per litre. The wine matures for an average of 5 years, and rests for an additional 6 months after disgorgement.
Louis Roederer Carte Blanche
Like the Brut Premier, it is a non-vintage wine comprised of 40% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay, 20% Meunier, but with a higher dosage. 5% is matured in oak casks with weekly batonnage, and 10% of the reserve wines are matured in cask. There is partial malolactic fermentation. The grapes come from more than 40 different plots. The finished wine is a blend of 6 years’ wines, a portion of which are reserve. It is matured for 3 years and rested for 6 months after disgorgement. Dosage varies depending on the style: the Extra Dry has residual sugar of 18g/L; the Sec has 32g/L; the Demi-Sec has 45g/L.
Around 60% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay. Roederer’s prestige cuvee. Only produced in the best years, Cristal is a blend of grapes from the 7 best estate vineyards. The wine matures for an average of 5 years in the cellars (15-20% in oak casks), and is rested for another 8 months after disgorgement prior to release. The dosage is adjusted according to the vintage, and ranges between 8-10 g/L.
Around 55% Pinot Noir, 45% Chardonnay from the best estate-owned sites. 15-20% matured in oak casks. Cristal Rose was created in 1974, 100 years after Cristal was first produced. The house still uses the saignee method after cold maceration of 5-8 days. The wine matures for 6 years, and is rested for an additional 8 months after disgorgement prior to release.
Louis Roederer was amongst the first people in Champagne to adopt a ‘grower’ philosophy. He innately understood the importance of nurturing the grapes and the land in order to make the finest wines, and set about purchasing the best vineyards and erecting immense cellars.
Roederer, a successful entrepreneur, inherited the house (then called Dubois Pere et Fils) from his uncle in 1833. He quickly established an excellent reputation not only in France, but especially in the United States and Russia. By 1872, with help from his brother Eugene, the house was producing one tenth of the total production volume of Champagne, the equivalent of 2.5 million bottles per year.
Tsar Alexander II of Russia was a great admirer of the Roederer champagnes and in 1876 commissioned them to create a cuvee exclusively for him. Louis Roederer II produced a special blend and, with the help of a Flemish master glassmaker, designed its famous clear glass bottle with a flat base. Still produced today, Cristal is one of the most prestigious champagnes in the world.
The house has remained in family hands, passing from Louis Roederer II to his nephew Leon Olry-Roederer, and eventually to his grandson, Jean-Claude Rouzaud and great-grandson, Frederic Rouzaud, who is at the helm today.
It hasn’t always been smooth sailing for the house of Louis Roederer, especially during Leon Olry-Roederer’s tenure. He endured the Russian Revolution (which severed ties with one of their best markets), America’s entry into Prohibition in 1919, and ten years later suffered from the major stock market crash of 1929.
However, things soon turned around when in 1932, Leon’s wife, Camille, took the reins and led the house for 40 years. During her tenure she built the business back up to its former glory and enjoyed much success.
Jean-Claude Rouzaud, Leon and Camille’s grandson, built on her achievements when he took over in 1979, by expanding the Roederer empire even further. He purchased several top Bordeaux properties including Chateau Pichon-Longueville Comtesse de Lalande, Chateau de Pez and Chateau Haut-Beausejour, as well as others in Portugal and California.
Today, Jean-Claude’s son Frederic adheres to the same ‘grower philosophy’ established by his ancestor Louis Roederer. Frederic has expanded the vineyard holdings to 240 hectares, and has built a fermentation room and cellar to house 9 million bottles.
The winemaker charged with the responsibility of crafting the much lauded wines of Louis Roederer is Jean-Baptiste Lecaillon. He joined the house in 1989 and became executive vice president in 2006. He now oversees the production of all their global holdings.
The Louis Roederer vintage wines are made exclusively with estate grown grapes, and even for the non-vintage wines they account for a large proportion of the production. For the Brut Premier NV, at least 50% of the grapes are estate grown (the remainder are purchased from long-established Champagne families).
The philosophy of the Roederer family is to have full control of the land, from the soil to vineyard management. Of the 240 hectares of vineyards Louis Roederer owns today, 127 are Grand Cru and the others are Premier Cru. They grow the three main Champagne varieties - Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Meunier - on sites located across classic Champagne districts: Verzenay, Verzy, Mareuil, Ay, Dizy, Cumieres, Damery, Cramant, Avize, Oger, Vertus and Le Mesnil.
Since 2004, 40 hectares of estate vineyards have been farmed biodynamically (in Avize, Cramant and Verzenay) and an additional 15 hectares are farmed organically.
The grape yield is of great importance to Jean-Baptiste and he makes sure it is greatly restricted to allow for better concentration in the wines. Their method for measuring the yield is unusual – instead of measuring the yield per hectare, as most producers do, Roederer gauges yield per vine! They use only around 1.4-1.6 kg from each plant, or no more than 14 bunches of grapes from one vine.
In the winery, all of the 410 parcels are vinified separately in small steel vats or barrels, and subsequently blended. Roederer uses only 6,000-litre oak foudres, never barriques, and the oak imparts just a subtle texture to the wines.
The Louis Roederer range is characterised by aristocratic elegance. The non-vintage Brut Premier is always among the best in the region and the vintage champagnes, even from a poor harvest, possess impeccable style, complexity and longevity. Prestige cuvee Cristal is only made in the best vintages from 25- to 30-year-old vines, and is at the highest echelon of class and quality.