Louis Roederer
Champagne

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Interview with Export Director of Roederer: Alexis Deligny

Without intending to sound like a smug Capetonian, there are days in the Cape Winelands that can only be described as Champagne days! The Champagne in Africa team was privileged to be invited to a master class at the exquisite Delaire Graff Estate. Radiant blue skies, majestic mountains and a Louis Roederer Champagne tasting – including my first sip of Cristal – life simply does not get much better.

Why Louis Roederer?

I have spent most of my life in the bubbly region and when my career led me to this post at Louis Roederer, it was an offer I couldn’t refuse. Founded in 1776, it is one of the last great family and independent Champagne Houses. To me, family means quality. This is the 7th generation running the same company. The family has a history of independence of thought – an insistence on the freedom to make choices to try new things and do things the Louis Roederer way. We are a big ‘small grower’ and the team works closely with nature and each other. We have our feet in the soil every morning.

Can you share some examples of this independent approach?

Yes, I can give several!

  • We own 242 hectares located exclusively in the Grands and Premiers Crus of the Marne. We, therefore, produce 70% of our grape needs when the average is 10-20%. (All the Roederer vintage wines are 100% estate grown.) In the mid-nineteenth century, Louis Roederer acquired some of Champagne’s grand cru vineyards — contrary to contemporary practice which was to buy grapes – he nurtured each parcel and continued to purchase the finest vineyards. His firm belief was that the quality of the wine is dependent on the soil; a principle that the House holds dear. We are therefore highly regarded as a grower House
  • We are committed to organic viticulture. Half of our vineyards are certified as organic and it is our aim to be 100%, but this is not a quick process. When you consider that only 2% of the Champagne region is currently certified organic, we are leaders
  • Louis Roederer produced the very first Cuvée de Prestige. In 1876 an exclusive Champagne was created for Tsar Alexander II of Russia, who demanded only the best cuvées should be reserved for him. Apparently, the Tsar was paranoid and insisted that the bottle must be clear and flat-bottomed so that poison would be visible and no bomb could be hidden underneath! The Champagne was named Cristal because it was bottled in lead-crystal, but also because of the luminous quality of the wine

(Having tasted this extraordinary Champagne, I think the Tsar was onto something!)

  • “Massale” selection refers to the process of choosing the worthiest young vines from the best parcels to create a "House vine" of the finest quality. We own 11 of the 13 hectares in the village of Bolouse and because it is away from the mainstream of vineyards, we have our own nursery there and grow all our own rootstocks. This allows us to implement biodiversity principles and to experiment

Why the special tribute to Camille?

She was the great-grandmother of the current CEO, Frédéric Rouzaud and he wanted to recognise her indomitable spirit. She was a widow who ran Louis Roederer from 1932 to 1975, steering it through major world events such as the after-effects of the Depression, Prohibition in the USA and World War II. Her inventiveness and ability to create an opportunity out of chaos are part of the House culture.

Which cuvées should a Louis Roederer fan discover for themselves?

Every person has their own taste, but my preference is for the vintage. It encapsulates the depth, complexity, minerality and elegance that is Louis Roederer. These Champagnes can keep for 20 to 30 years!

We are currently on collection 243– the 243rd blend since 1776. We have been blending vintages for nearly 250 years. We believe that Champagne, like wine, should reflect the uniqueness of each harvest. While consistency in quality is non-negotiable, the flavours should change subtly to reflect changing vintages. The Perpetual Reserve was started in 2012 and this is used to balance the variations in the harvest. We aim not for the same taste, but rather the best Champagne for the year, which requires a careful orchestra of blending and patience to create the perfect symphony.

We prefer to use a low malolactic method, as well as low dosage to maintain the high acidity.

Then, of course, there is Cristal. We do not produce a Cristal every year. It is determined by the vintage and the quality. The white is a blend of 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay. 2018 was one of our best harvests and the 2012 vintage was the first to be made from 100% biodynamically farmed grapes. We even use horses, not machinery to protect the terroir in these parcels.

But, any Louis Roederer Champagne is a great Champagne!

"We are deeply amazed by the magic of Nature, and we strive to serve it as best as possible to restore a little of this magic through our Wines"— Frédéric Rouzaud, Chairman and CEO.

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