Rolling back the years

Drinks: Sparkling, Wines
Location: Europe, France

Louis Roederer chef de cave Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon was in London earlier this week for a tasting of stand-out releases of both Roederer Brut Vintage and Cristal from the past three decades. The selection of two older and two more recent blends of each cuvée, including the soon to be released 2005 Cristal, provided a great opportunity to see how well these wines age, and how remarkably fresh the original disgorgements of the older vintages remain.

Lécaillon selected 2002, 1996 and 1988 for the straight vintages, while for Cristal he opted for 2005 and 2004 versus 1990 and 1999.

All the wines, with the exception of the oldest two, were the original commercial disgorgements aged on their lees for around five years. To the surprise of some, but not to Lécaillon, among the older vintages it was the wines that had aged longest on their corks post-disgorgement – the 1996 vintage and the 1999 Cristal – that were the stars of the show, having retained their freshness and vivacity to best effect.

The 2002 vintage was still remarkably fresh a decade on. As Lécaillon explained, he hadn’t included the 2002 Cristal in the line-up as it was still so relatively undeveloped. Lécaillon also re-iterated his belief that after about five years, further lees ageing has little beneficial effect on champagne. He explained that Roederer prefer to disgorge the wines at that point, and age them on their corks thereafter. ‘Wines today have much more flavour [even]before they are bottled and don’t need to be aged on their lees so long, a trend that will continue,’ he believes. He also noted that with wines disgorged later, there is often more bottle variation.

There was a chance at the start and end of the tasting to try some vintage rosé. Proceedings began with the fresh fruity aromas of two very different recent vintages 2007 and 2006. The tasting finished on a high note with Cristal Rosé 1996.

Image: Nick Maddox

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