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May 4, 2022

From Non-Vintage to Multi-Vintage Collection w/ Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon, Champagne Louis Roederer & Xavier Barlier, MMD

From Non-Vintage to Multi-Vintage Collection w/ Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon, Champagne Louis Roederer & Xavier Barlier, MMD

The launch of the Collection series, evolving the non-vintage Brut Premier into a multi-vintage wine that represents the best of the base vintage, the house style, and the push for freshness.


As the climate and resulting fruit quality change, winemakers must adapt to achieve the highest quality. That led the historic (246 years as of 2022) Champagne house of Louis Roederer to create Brut Premier in 1986 to overcome the challenges of underripe vintages, particularly in the 1970s. In 2022, another evolution has occurred, where the fruit is consistently ripe, and the main challenge is to preserve freshness. Thus, the launch of the Collection series, evolving the non-vintage Brut Premier into a multi-vintage wine that represents the best of the base vintage, the house style, and the push for freshness. Jean-Baptiste Lecaillon, EVP and Chef du Cave at Champagne Louis Roederer, and Xavier Barlier, SVP of Marketing and Communications of Maison Marques & Domaines USA (Roederer’s import arm), tell us about this transition, strategy, and its market positioning. 

 

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Detailed Show Notes:

Champagne Louis Roederer

  • 246 years old
  • Owns ~600 acres of vineyards
  • 70% of grapes from own vineyards - “grower first”
  • 70% of quality comes from grapes for Champagne

The “New Champagne” trend

  • Driven by climate change and a resultant change in farming
  • Grapes have more expression and flavors; picked earlier and healthier
  • Need to adapt winemaking and farming to these new grapes
  • Grapes are picked earlier than 40 years ago, but similar to the late 1880s

The Grower Champagne movement - “a fantastic movement”

  • The growers survived due to the sales prowess of the Houses and have always had a close relationship between them
  • Due to climate change, it’s now possible to bottle wine themselves, whereas in the past, blending at scale was necessary due to the significant variation in quality
  • Terroir is now being revealed, of which both growers and Houses are moving towards

Collection series launch

  • Brut Premier was created in 1986, after the ’70s which were challenging years, so the non-vintage was created to make consistent, even quality wines
  • Using non-vintage to correct unripe grapes
  • With climate change, the challenge is different with ripe grapes; need to give freshness to the wines
  • Collection focuses on freshness, wants to reach the elite of the multi-vintage category, to be the best blend possible instead of consistency of house style
  • A modern evolution of Brut Premier, which is in the context of Champagne changing (100 years ago Champagne was sweet, 50 years ago it moved to a drier aperitif wine)

Collection production methods

  • Perpetual reserve (“PR”) - a new tool to ensure freshness and minerality, as well as the complexity of age
  • PR started in 2012 with 50% Pinot Noir, 50% Chardonnay, lots specifically selected for their freshness
  • PR has the new vintage added to it every year, and it becomes more and more complex over time
  • PR is aged in large tanks (1,000hl) with no oxygen, kept at 12C (underground cellar temp) for prolonged aging
  • Collection blend includes ~30-35% PR, ~10% reserve wines aged in oak, ~55-60% from the most recent harvest
  • Brut Premier had 6-10% oak reserve wines, which were the house signature of Roederer; Collection increases this signature

Brut Premier no longer made

  • Removed to have more consistency in the lineup, Collection is more “Roederer” than Brut Premier

Collection pricing

  • Product is more expensive to make, so pricing is higher than Brut Premier
  • Collection is multi-vintage (like Krug Grand Cuvee and Jacquesson), at a higher level than non-vintage

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