“I am a hyper creative and professional dreamer,” says Philippe Starck matter-of-factly. “Sadly all my dreams become material, become products, and this makes me very ashamed because, for me, materiality is vulgar.” It is, admittedly, an odd way to start an interview about the new Louis Roederer et Philippe Starck Brut Nature 2012 – the latest product to come from Starck’s 14-year collaboration with the champagne house.
His point, however, becomes clear when he explains the concept of dematerialisation – finding the abstract in material goods – which informs the collaboration. “Over the years many champagne companies came to me and asked me to make packaging and labels but I always said, ‘Sorry, I can’t do it unless I can help create the liquid inside.’ I don’t want to make a bottle that means something and then, when people buy it, the champagne inside means something else. It’s a lie,” he explains.
Eventually, Frédéric Rouzaud and Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon, CEO and Cellar Master of Louis Roederer respectively, acquiesced – thanks in part to Starck’s admission that he drinks ‘at least’ a magnum of champagne per day – and the team embarked on creating Louis Roederer’s first Brut Nature vintage.
“I knew what I wanted but I didn’t know how to make it,” says Starck. “I spoke with Jean-Baptiste about my concept of dematerialisation and how we needed to create the taste of emptiness. I also asked him about the taste of speed, because that is the essence of modernity, and then he chose a piece of land in the vineyard that he knew would create what I wanted.
“At the first tasting everybody was shocked because it was exactly what I had described. It was a new type of champagne – more elegant, sharper. It has a lot of things that were not found in champagne before and it was a big success. It’s a beautiful story because it showed that if you have a precise idea, if you know how to express it and if you find the right partner, you can make anything.”
“He is a very buoyant guy with as many ideas as there are bubbles in a bottle,” says Lécaillon of Starck. “He has worked in many fields but is not an expert in any of them – including champagne – but what he has brought to us is the concept he uses to analyse a new field. It was fascinating to work with him because his approach is to go to the essentials.
“We didn’t have any idea what the wine would be like. Usually when you make wine you decide what flavour you want and then work backwards to get there. Here we went straight to the process, the essence of each moment of the winemaking, and we trusted the result would be good if each step was perfect.”
Cycles by Sofia Clausse
From these fruitful roots have sprung three vintages – 2006, 2009 and 2012 – the latest of which is the first to offer both a blanc and a rosé. Accordingly the rosé is very much embodied in artistic notions. “It’s not the type of rosé drunk for fun on the beach when it’s warm – it’s about jubilation, it’s more elegant,” explains Starck. “I said to Jean-Baptiste, ‘I want a rosé which is a white champagne with the reflection of the skin of the person you love.’ It is a project about tenderness and love.”
In recognition of this new debut for the collaboration, the 2012 release was marked with another first – the opening up of the interpretation of Louis Roederer Brut Nature to students from the Royal Academy. From a shortlist of 13 pieces, ranging from photography and painting to sculpture, the judging panel, which included Starck, Rouzaud and Lécaillon, chose Sofia Clausse’s minimalist Cycles artwork as the winning piece. In the end, as Starck explained during the prize-giving at the Royal Academy, “Elegance is always in the minimal.”
Listen to our podcast with Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon on the future of champagne…
Gentlemen's Journal is happy to partner with The Prince’s Trust RISE campaign, which is working to create a network of young adults aged between 21-45, who are passionate about social mobility. You can become a Prince’s Trust Riser by donating just £20 per month to the scheme.