Roederer knocks late-disgorged Champagne

As Louis Roederer offered the UK trade a first taste of its Cristal 2005, technical director Jean Baptiste Lécaillon cast doubt on the benefits of late-disgorged Champagnes.

Sparkling wine waiting to be disgorged

Highlighting the impact of climate change on Champagne, which he feels has led to riper red varieties in particular, Lécaillon observed: “Wines today before bottling have much more flavour and are more aromatic than 30 years ago. The consequence is that they need less time on lees.”

Comparing the effect of lees to that of maturing wines in oak, Lécaillon argued: “There’s a point where the lees becomes too much and you lose the flavours of the wine. It’s a question of balance.”

His comments come at a time when late-disgorged releases are proving popular among many houses keen to feed the market for mature Champagnes.

Among the most high profile advocates for this style are Dom Pérignon with its Oenothèque range and Bollinger, which introduced its RD (Recently Disgorged) label back in 1961, with the Champagne spending at least eight years on the lees.

The last two years have seen Lanson introduce its Extra Age Brut and Extra Age Rosé styles, non-vintage blends aged on the lees for a minimum of five years. The house is now planning to release a late-disgorged release of its 1976 vintage.

At the time of the launch of its Extra Age Brut, Paul Beavis, managing director of Lanson International, argued: “With our non-malo style, the longer you can give it on the lees the better.”

Despite the growing popularity of this approach, Lécaillon maintained: “The future of Champagne is to keep wine for two to three years on its lees. You don’t need more than that.”

The Cristal 2005 vintage is due to be released in the UK this Autumn, although a number of magnums are already available.

Despite describing 2005 as “a difficult vintage in Champagne” thanks to its combination of hot weather conditions and rain, Lécaillon highlighted the wine’s “wonderful generosity and beautiful touch of fruit ripeness.”

He added: “What I like about ’05 too is its minerality. The acidity at the end is almost chalky and I think it will develop beautifully in time.”

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