As we celebrate a new year, we often say, “Out with the old; in with the new.” Champagne Louis Roederer is doing just that. They have said goodbye to the Brut Premiere and hello to Collection 242, a wine that honors the past in a forward-thinking way.
Founded in 1776 in Reims, France, Champagne Louis Roederer is one of the few remaining independent, family-owned companies still managed by the original Roederer family. Louis Roederer inherited the company from his uncle in 1832 and renamed it under his namesake.
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Louis Roederer knew that to make great Champagne, one had to start with great still wines. And to make great wines, one must own their own vineyards. He started to acquire vineyards in Mont de Reims in 1842 and today Champagne Louis Roederer owns almost 600 acres of vineyards in the villages of Montagne de Reims, Côtes des Blancs, and Valleé de la Marne.
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In addition, Champagne Louis Roederer began converting vineyards to biodynamic farming in the 1990s, and today the 185 acres of vineyards are biodynamically farmed, making Louis Roederer the largest biodynamic estate in the Champagne region.
While known for their exquisite vintage Champagne and the Cuvée de Prestige Cristal, the flagship wine was the nonvintage Brut Premier. Reflecting the house style, the Brut Premier was the most produced wine in the portfolio and available everywhere. Until now.
The Louis Roederer NV Brut Premiere has been replaced with the Louis Roederer Collection 242, raising the standard of the house’s flagship wine.
The Louis Roederer Collection 242 is a multi-vintage wine, as opposed to a nonvintage wine. “Nonvintage” is a blend of vintages with the goal of consistency each year. This was a beneficial model with the historically unpredictable weather in Champagne. However, because of climate change over the last 30 years, warmer years mean that single-vintage Champagne can be produced more often. A multi-vintage Champagne is a different approach to the art of blending wine.
The idea for Collection 242 started 10 years ago when Champagne Louis Roederer started a perpetual reserve. Like the solera system used for Sherry in Spain, the perpetual reserve began with the 2012 vintage, and each year wines from the latest harvest are added.
The perpetual reserve, which currently includes wine from 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016 vintages, is stored in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks. The wine has not undergone malolactic fermentation and the reductive environment does not allow the wines to age.
What is distinctive about the perpetual reserve is that in time it will be a blend of 20 harvests, then 30 harvests. And, in 100 years, the perpetual blend will be inclusive of 105 harvests.
Champagne Louis Roederer Collection 242 is crafted from 34 percent of the perpetual reserve, 56 percent from the 2017 harvest, and 10 percent of oak-aged reserve wines from the 2009, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016 vintages. It is a blend of 42 percent Chardonnay, 36 percent Pinot Noir, and 22 percent Pinot Meunier. The grapes in the blend are equally sourced from Roederer’s La Riviere estate, La Montagne estate, and La Cote estate. The wine spends four years on the less and has eight percent dosage.
Collection 242 is an elegantly restrained Champagne with aromas of citrus zest, apple, stone fruits, spring flowers and a touch of nuttiness. On the palate, there is a beautiful richness, yet it is structured and precise with fresh energy and a long finish.
The name of the wine, Collection 242, represents the number of blends since the foundation of the Champagne house. 2017 is the 242nd harvest of Champagne Louis Roederer. Subsequent releases of the Collection line will reflect the number of harvests, as for example next year’s release with a 2018 base will be Collection 243.
While this is a multi-vintage wine, in many ways it is also vintage specific. Each release will be unique because of the base vintage and the perpetual reserve. It is a Champagne that can be cellared, like vintage Champagne, but at $55, is an affordable option to drink now.
Allison Levine is owner of Please The Palate, a marketing and event-planning agency. A freelance writer, she contributes to numerous publications while eating and drinking her way around the world. Allison is also the host of the wine podcast Wine Soundtrack USA and a co-host of Crush On This videos on YouTube. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.