Champagne house Louis Roederer may release still wines

Champagne house Louis Roederer could release still wines that it has made from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, as global warming may prompt more Champagne houses to produce still wines alongside fizz.

Louis Roederer’s cellar master, Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon, with a bottle of the newly released 2008 Cristal, which is praised by him, as the “Cristal of all Cristals”

This was revealed yesterday at a media lunch when the Champagne house president Frédéric Rouzaud and cellar master Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon presided over the release of highly-reviewed 2008 Cristal with its local importer Links Concept.

Asked by dbHK about the possibility of making still wines, both confirmed that it is a direction that the house is currently looking at.

This would be a new adventure for the over 200-year-old Champagne house, following its progressive move to fully certify its vineyards organic.

Speaking of the 2018 vintage, Jean Baptiste did not mince his words in praising the quality of the Pinot Noir. He lauded the 2018 vintage as “outstanding”, going as far as to call it “a Pinot year”.

The 100% Pinot Noir still red is also a single vineyard wine, he revealed.

In addition to a Pinot Noir, the house also made a still Chardonnay from the vintage, but admitted the experience proved to be “more difficult”.

“I think we made an interesting one. We worked 10 years and wanted to copy Burgundy, which was the wrong direction. We don’t have the same concentration and balance that we want,” he confessed.

“We have to take another direction and it’s quite impressive this year. Super exciting,” exclaimed the cellar master, who has worked in the Champagne house for more than 30 years.

If the wines are released, this would add Louis Roederer to a short list of Champagne houses embracing still winemaking in the land of bubbles. Champagne Bollinger famously produces a still red Pinot Noir called ‘La Côte aux Enfants’ under its label.

However, whether or when the release will happen is yet to be announced.

Asked if Champagne would be the next Burgundy, and the UK the next Champagne in the coming decades, as global warming is pushing vineyards to higher altitudes and more northerly for cooler climates, Louis Roederer’s president Frédéric Rouzaud entertained the idea by giving a nod to the first half, but brushed off the second part.

Cristal 2008

The Champagne house missed Cristal in 2010, 2011 and 2017 due to climatic challenges that led the house to forgo producing its top cuvée. The 2017 vintage was especially challenging due to damaging spring frosts and even more devastating black frost in April that affected higher altitude vineyards as well, says Jean-Baptise.

As a result, “We lost most of the key terroir to make the backbone of Cristal,” he admitted, but the latest release from the house – 2008 Cristal – was praised by the winemaker as the “Cristal of all Cristals,” embodying “exactly the vision we have of Cristal.”

The house has about 240 hectares of vineyards in Champagne, and has converted half of its sites to biodynamics, and the 2012 vintage of Cristal will be the first vintage released by the house that’s made from 100% biodynamic grapes.

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