Louis Roederer replaces Brut Premier with “Collection”

Champagne Louis Roederer has announced it is replacing its non-vintage Brut Premier with a new multi-vintage label.

“Collection 242” is the first of a new addition to the Louis Roederer range. The majority of the blend (56%) is wine from the 2017 vintage. A feature of each cuvée in future editions is that they will be largely based around a single vintage.

The next major component of the blend (34%) is wine from a new “Perpetual Reserve”, composed of wines from 2012-2016. The final part of the blend (10%) are wines dating back to 2009 that have been aged in barrel.

Job done

Brut Premier has been the house’s flagship label since 1986, but cellar master Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon explained that it had “done its job”.

As with many modern non-vintage labels, the house brut was born out of the less than stellar decade of the 1970s. Champagne houses were habitually harvesting grapes that were still not fully ripe in September and October so the use of reserve wines was intended to “create ripeness”.

Since 2002, Lecaillon continued, ripeness has been less of an issue. Vintages have been warmer and there has been a change in the viticulture at the estate (Louis Roederer has been converting its organic and biodynamic farming for the past two decades).

End of an era

Lécaillon said he felt it was the “end of the era of brut non-vintage in Champagne”. For Lécaillon it is a sign of the changing ethos not just at Louis Roederer but in Champagne more broadly.

“It is not the cellar that commands anymore,” he said. “It is the vineyard.”

Each new edition of Collection will be based predominantly around a single vintage. “242” (a reference to the 242nd vintage since the house’s founding) uses 2017, 243 will use the 2018 and so on.

The predominance of Chardonnay or Pinot Noir will also change depending on the vintage around which the blend is based.

The result is “almost a vintage ­– with more twists,” said Lécaillon.

Secondary market

Louis Roederer’s prestige cuvée, Cristal, is currently the second most-traded Champagne (LWIN7) by value in the secondary market so far this year, and the third most-traded Champagne label by volume.

Cristal Rosé 2012, meanwhile, is the third most-traded Champagne (LWIN11) by value so far this year.