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.
The Roederer house
Jean Baptiste has been working alongside the father of Frédéric Rouzaud, current President of Louis Roederer since 2006.
Officially in charge from 1999, he has been the driving force behind the house’s constant thirst of discovering the boundaries of Champagne in every aspect.
The house has split their vineyards into separate domaines, that are using their respective parcels every year, like the Cristal domaine, Blanc de Blanc domaine etc.
This categorisation was made in the late 90s. 410 plots divided into different wines, so the wine literally starts from the vineyard”.
Experimentation and research
“Roederer have adapted their viticulture to the particular wines. More leaf removal for Blanc de Blanc & Rosé, to give more phenolic ripeness to Chardonnay and get more bitterness, and likewise for Rosé to push ripeness of tannins something extremely important when you deal with red grapes.
The experimentation doesn’t stop there. JBL showed us his experimental vineyard in the northern part of the Champagne area, where the team of viticulturist are pushing the boundaries on discovering the ideal training systems, density plantations, canopy management, clonal selection and so on.
They have planted the famous Lyre training system, widely found in California so they can check if the canopy can be managed differently, beyond the traditional systems. Might not have worked, but at least they know now. And please do not forget that trials in viticulture, take few decades to understand if you did the right thing or not!”
Varieties and grafting techniques
“They also now developed their own rootstock selection (41b) at Roederer and a massal selection of the 3 main grapes (plus Pinot Blanc which was re-introduced to the vineyards). Exciting!
They are grafting their own varieties and they discovered that the Omega grafting doesn’t give the needed results. Reason is that they believe that the wound is too big and causes less flow of the sap and possibly more esca problems. They use more the so called ‘English’ grafting. Who would know that the English are famous for grafting?
Jean Baptiste started working well with some wineries in Friuli as he was impressed with the sap flow in their old vines and the way they pruned their vines”.
“More importantly the house is now 49% HVE (high environmental value) certified, plus 44% Organic and 4% Biodynamic, which the last one not certified.
But in all the organic vineyards they follow most of the biodynamic principles. 122ha organically certified.
They buy their manure from organic farms in Ardenne. Compost is the most important for Baptiste.
The 10ha that are certified by Demeter as biodynamic, are in Cumieres which gives the fruit for the Brut Nature by Phillip Starck”.