Free spirit: flexibility is the future of producing champagne

The new Collection 244 multi-vintage champagne is an exceptional example of Louis Roederer's virtuosity to adapt its savoir-faire in the face of climate change

We are all increasingly aware of the transformative impact of climate change on the environment, and the need to take action to reduce its damaging effects. Yet, as the threat to the planet gets more extreme, pioneers in every industry are looking at how they can innovate and adapt their processes to create more positive results for the environment.

Sipping a glass of champagne, you might feel very far away from the issue of climate change. However, over the past 30 years or so, variation and disruption to the Champagne terroir has caused champagne producers to have to re-think traditional grape growing and winemaking methods.

Seeing the need for cultural change as an opportunity for new ambition in the art of blending, 247 year-old Champagne House Louis Roederer, led by the Maison’s renowned Cellar Master Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon, is a trailblazer of innovation in the face of climate change. In the early 2000’s, Louis Roederer started using sustainable and responsible farming and winegrowing practices, and its strategy became focused on embracing – not fighting against – climate change and the new environment it creates for producing champagne.

Cellar Master Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon

So far, this new environment has been characterised by more extreme climate conditions during the growing season, including changes such as earlier and warmer harvests with accelerated maturity, and riper and healthier fruit.

In response to the increasing variability of the environment, Louis Roederer realised it must use its pioneering spirit to strive to produce ever-better quality Champagne by working with nature, not against it. Therefore, Jean-Baptiste is using biodynamic farming techniques to encourage deeper roots, a healthier, more resilient vine, and consequently higher quality grapes with more power, aromatic expression and freshness.

Its ongoing research project began 25 years ago, and around 10 years ago, Louis Roederer masterminded the revolutionary Collection “cuvée” – a contemporary multi-vintage champagne – aimed at tackling climate change and working with new balances produced by climate disruption.

When it comes to sustainability and respecting nature, Collection offers an almost infinite number of possibilities for the evolution of its wines and the expression of the qualities of the terroir, as it is not crafted by subscribing to a formula or trying to recreate the exact style and flavour of previous releases.

This approach represents a new freedom in blending, as it’s no longer about consistency of house style and taste, but instead about creating the best possible wine from the terroir, exploring the full diversity of the Champagne macroclimate, and embodying singularity and finesse. Collection champagnes have a new freshness, pushing towards aromatic brightness, intensity and precision of fruit, plus a feeling of lightness with less acidity, wrapped with a complex and textural deliciousness.

The first chapter of Collection comprised four experimental multi-vintage champagne blends – Collection 238, 239, 240 and 241 (the number denoting how many years since Louis Roederer was founded) – harvested each year over a four-year period from 2013 – 2016. These first cuvées weren’t ever released to the public, but were used to tweak the different winemaking options until the perfect balance was found for flavour, texture and freshness.

The second flight was officially released to the public, with the first official edition of Collection 242 demonstrating how Louis Roederer’s new, more flexible take on winemaking allowed the House more freedom in difficult years, such as 2017, when 242 was harvested.

The latest opus of Louis Roederer’s multi-vintage champagne – Collection 244 – is a masterclass in how Louis Roederer’s savoir-faire has delivered a remarkable new edition by adapting to the ever-changing environmental conditions. As the 244th blend since Louis Roederer was founded, Collection 244 is wonderfully well-balanced with freshness, using carefully-considered winemaking techniques to naturally enhance the sensation of brightness and energy in an increasingly warmer climate.

After four years tucked away in Louis Roederer’s cellars, Collection 244 truly expresses the unique terroirs and exceptional harvest from which it originates, highlighting the need to adapt and have flexibility year to year, for example during the record-breaking heat wave of 2019.

At every stage of the crafting of this bespoke champagne, Louis Roederer has been guided by its quest for freshness, complexity and harmony with nature without limitations, which is particularly necessary in light of the changing climate, and the House’s vision for a sustainable future.

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