All good things must come to an end. So says Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon, the man who has served as ‘chef de cave’ for Louis Roederer since 1999. But the innovateur’s news is not bad. The hallowed heritage brand may this year be discontinuing its best-selling Champagne — Brut Premier NV — but this gave Lécaillon the opportunity to dive deep into a sparkling new challenge; and produce Louis Roederer Collection 242.
And what a wine it is. While Brut Premier NV tended to blend a ‘base’ wine from Roederer’s most recent harvest with a series of ‘reserve’ wines from older vintages, the new Collection range will see the annual release of numbered cuvées — with expressions changing more notably year-upon-year. The ‘242’ in the name of this first release refers to the youngest vintage in the blend, 2017, which was the 242nd Roederer harvest.
It’s a bold move, but one that has paid off. And, in a year during which Roederer has already launched the incredible Cristal 2013, this is an unexpected treat. The brand claim it was born as a reaction to climate change; the first scintillating step towards a true marriage of innovation and sustainability. 242 itself blends a base vintage with 34% from a perpetual reserve, and 10% reverse wines from French oak foudres. So, without further ado, let’s pop a cork with Lécaillon for a very special Gentleman’s Journal Wine of the Week…
On the eyes: Even a splash shows off the handsome colour of Collection 242. This is a refined, restrained Champagne; brimming with both elegant golden bubbles and shades of deeper, darker bronze. There’s also a flatter, matter colour at play here — a subdued, less-lively lemon tint that suggests the wine’s suitability for savoury pairings (a deliberate departure from Brut Premier NV, which was chiefly used as an aperitif).
On the nose: Take a deep, bubbly breath and the first fragrance that hits will be citrus. It’s unsurprising; but offers a welcome, characteristic call-back to the Brut Premier NV. What wafts up on second sniff, however, is a little different. There’s fresh fruit under that hint of lemon, from stone fruits to apples — but also a perfumed, slightly spicy almond scent; the seductive smell of hawthorn, an ingredient long used in the fragrance industry.
On the palate: Primarily; bubbles. Again, unsurprising — although the 242’s effervescent streams look a little finer to the naked eye than the Brut Premier NV, so it’s nice to feel them hit the tongue with a typically ‘Roederer’ punch. With regards to flavour, only the apple persists from the nose. Instead, richer notes of blackberry, raspberry and cherry push through; tempering the lively, complex mouth-feel with luscious, smooth textures.
On the finish: Something of a contradiction. Collection 242 has a long finish, stretching out with mouth-watering minerality. But it also, somehow, manages to be delicate, lively and fresh. It’s a sensational achievement; blending the bitter edges (bringing back that lemon from the nose) with the deeper, more luscious palate. And then, for a final fizz-infused flourish, a fleeting, unctuous touch of toasted flavour guarantees to keep you guessing, assessing — and, most importantly, sipping.
Louis Roederer Collection 242
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