Sommeliers’ Diaries: Champagne Roederer
by Terry Kandylis
Terry Kandylis was recently in Champagne, invited by the house of Roederer to spend 2 days with their Chef de Cave, Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon. He is sharing with us his experience with one of the most prestigious Champagne houses. You can read part 1/2 here.
Visible effects on the taste
“An interesting chat about how the whole conversation about farming came, was that they felt it after the ’96 vintage. They believed that the conventional farming stripped the wines from texture and depth that they had before 70s.
A fascinating blind tasting in the house with Vin Clair from the same vineyard, half been farmed biodynamically and half organically can easily demonstrate the different qualities: more fruit on the Organic one, more texture and length on palate for the biodynamic.
Blend of the two, was the absolute wine. Did I mention that Champagne is all about blends?”
So what’s Roederer’s secret?
“Roederer are known to be late-pickers. Normally 4-5 days after the start of the harvest and they prefer not to allow malolactic taking place in their wines. But what was absolutely mind-blowing in the cellars, is the amount of wood that the house is using.
They ferment quite a bit in large and neutral oak casks, most of them around 30-40 hl in size. Roederer is one of the biggest oak users in Champagne. More than 1.2million bottles are to be found in casks of large size, from forests all around Europe. And every year JB leaves a barrel of Cristal on the side.
In addition, all the young vines (below 25yrs) of Cristal stay in oak for reserve wines. They have stainless steel as well for the majority of their wines, though large casks play a major role on their top wines. And few ceramic spheres for the extra experimentation in the cellars. We tried some still wines from them as JBL is about to release Coteaux Champenois! White and Red, but hold on. Only about 1200 bottles to be released”.
Tell us more about their wines and vineyards!
“The Coteaux Champenois rouge is coming from Mareueil sur Ay, a vineyard roughly 2,4ha in size. Cummieres was too spicy, Bouzy too cherry-ish, Ambonnay (too good for Champagne!). And they choose massal selection from Burgundy. One more vineyard will join later from the higher part of Mareueil, up the slope, with higher canopy. As Baptiste says, more Lalou-Bize style…
First bottling in 2015, no stems. In 2016, 30% stems. Very German/Alsatian like, riper than I thought it will be, with bright red cherry fruit and silky tannins.
The house buys mainly Pinot Meunier as they don’t have vineyards with it. From Valle de la Marne, more fruity and from the northern slopes of Montagne de Reims more spiciness.
Total production is 3.7 million bottles and 80% of that is Brut Premiere.
Cristal is far less and especially the Rosé. 45 parcels destined for the Blanc and only 4 for the Rosé. I wish there were more, so more people can try a masterpiece like the 1999 tried at the family’s house and be convinced that Rosé can be great. Pure joy, elegance, subtlety and poise. Still remember it. And a memorable wine as it was JBL’s first ever vintage in charge. Wish him to continue the legacy and craft more masterpieces like this one. 2008 is definitely challenging many vintages that were described as the century ones though wait till 2018 is been released. JBL believes that this is the best vintage he has ever experienced as a Chef de Cave!!!”
It looks like Terry had a wonderful experience with the house of Roederer. You are now definitely invited to ask him everything about Roederer when you sip a glass of heir exquisite champagnes at the Club!