Outstanding new Champagne from Louis Roederer
Louis Roederer Collection 242 NV - BUY HERE
During the last few years, the Louis Roederer Brut Premier has been among the very best non-vintage Champagnes. We were thus surprised and a trifle apprehensive when we gathered that this wonderful Champagne was to be replaced. We should not have been concerned. The replacement is outstanding and even better and more complex than its illustrious predecessor!
The 242 on the label of this Louis Roederer Champagne refers to the number of vintages since the foundation of this prestigious Champagne House in 1776. The decision to replace the hugely popular Brut Premier with Collection 242 was based on the need to meet the challenges posed by the progressive increases in temperature that are occurring in Champagne as a result of climate change. The main problem associated with these temperature rises is that Champagne now potentially faces a decline in the freshness of its wines through an increase in grape ripeness and a reduction in grape acidity. Cellar masters, such as the innovative Jean-Baptiste Lecaillon of Louis Roederer, have thus been stimulated to develop approaches that facilitate the retention of that essential freshness to their wines.
The ability of Jean-Baptiste to be flexible and address the above issue is assisted by Louis Roederer being able to meet 75 % of its needs from its own 240 hectares of vines, with all vineyards recently converted fully to organic viticulture which naturally produces wines with greater acidity. Furthermore, the final 25 % is obtained from growers whom Jean-Baptiste has selected on the basis of the underlying soil type of their vineyards, rather than from a particular village or area. This represents part of the painstaking search for fruit that will add extra freshness. That fresh quality is further enhanced by modifications to the ways in which the wines are aged.
The changes brought about by increases in temperature also provided Jean-Baptiste with the opportunity to create a unique NV during his relentless search to further the quality of Louis Roederer champagnes. This has included the conscious decision to start blurring the distinction between its vintage and non-vintage wines. Thus, rather than aiming to produce a consistent wine style from year to year, as is typically the case with NV Champagnes, Jean Louis has created a cuvee that varies each vintage according to the relative characteristics and quality of the different grape varieties. Thus, in 2017, when that vintage provided the base wine for Collection 242, the proportion of Chardonnay selected was greater than would normally have been the case because that variety performed superbly in that year, whereas Pinot Noir was of lesser quality.
The base wine for the 242 comprises 56 % from the 2017 vintage, of which 34 % underwent malolactic fermentation. A further 34 % was contributed collectively by equal parts of wines from each vintage between 2012 and 2016, with the most recent vintage blended with those of the previous vintages. This represents Jean Louis’ Reserve Perpetuelle, which is now stored in a specially-designed tank that reduces oxidation of the wine and thus maintains its freshness for longer. The final 10 % comprises Reserve wines from a mixture of the 2009, 2011, 2013, 2014 and 2016 vintages, each of which had been aged in oak. The final varietal composition is 42 % Chardonnay, 36 % Pinot Noir and 22 % Pinot Meunier.
The Louis Roederer Collection 242 has a brilliant light gold colour and an excellent fine bead. The nose contains a delightful and complex combination of ripe apple, pear and plum aromas. The delicious rounded fruit on the palate is balanced by a firm acidity to produce a perfectly structured Champagne. The flavours linger for ages after the last sip. A great non-vintage Champagne.