Subscriber login Close [x]
remember me
You are not logged in.

Louis Roederer shows its modern face at MMD tasting

Published:  29 January, 2018

Things sometimes move at a glacial pace in the world of fine wine, but even Grande Marque producer Louis Roederer showed it is up for moving with the times at its most recent tasting, showcasing zero dosage and experimentation with organic and biodynamic wines.

At last week’s portfolio presentation, Maisons Marques et Domaines (MMD) – the UK arm of the Cristal producer, created in 1986 to represent its Champagnes and growing number of still and sparkling wine brands in the UK – showed a range encompassing classic NV and vintage Champagnes, from 240 ha spread across the Montagne de Reims and Vallée de la Marne (55% of which is Grand Cru).

This is a company whose prestige cuvee is its Cristal, created in 1876 for the Russian Tsar at the time, and whose continued success has made it the go-to for everyone from celebrities (sometimes a sore point for the house) to government officials.

Given its long history, it is, in relevant terms, perhaps not that surprising that until three years ago its most recent release was in 1975, when the house released its Cristal Rosé.

However, in 2015 the house revealed a fresh product and a fresh new look with its Brut Nature 2006, which was not only the Grande Marque house’s newest product in 40 years, it was also biodynamic – and boasted a modern label from designer Philippe Starck that took a marked step away from the traditional designs of old.

But according to export manager Thierry Wallaert, the house’s “newest baby” - its first zero dosage – wasn’t entirely motivated by the market, but typically, a careful exploration of its vineyards.

“It’s trendy to have a zero dosage,” Wallaert acknowledged. “But it also came about because we have a great vineyard which doesn’t need any additional sugar. The wine uses grapes primarily from a specific parcel in Grand Cru village Cumieres in the Vallée de la Marne, keeping the brand’s signature fresh and elegant style while bringing a unique sense of terroir.”

MMD is more than just Louis Roederer, however.

As well as showing the 2009 follow-up to the first Brut Nature zero dosage release, MMD also presented wines from its other brands, including the Douro’s Ramos Pinto, producer of Port and still wine which came on board in the 1990s, Domaines OTT in Provence, Burgundy’s Domaine Faiveley and Rioja producer Marques de Murrieta.

Any expansion would proceed with a characteristically careful pace, but Christine Allen, head of brand management talked to Harpers about the potential of plugging a gap in the company’s New World Portfolio – Australia and South America.

“Possibly Barossa Valley or Margaret River,” she said. “The quality with Australian wine has always been there, but during the financial crash in 2009, a lot of Australian wineries pulled out of the UK, which gave many producers an opportunity to revaluate. Chile Sauvignon Blanc took their position at the low end, leading a lot of producers to think about what they could do with premium.

“Argentina is also producing some great high altitude Malbecs, and also Chilean winemakers like Eduardo Chadwick are also setting the bar high.”

While the New World offers opportunities for expansion, MMD’s managing director Richard Billett reiterated the company’s careful strategising and criteria for established, top quality wines producers which – in keeping with Louis Roederer’s place as one of the last family owned Grandes Marques – must be family owned.

In terms of the fine wine market as a whole, he said: “If you consider Liv-Ex data, it would suggest that the market is in good health with Burgundy performing well, growing interest in categories such as Champagne and Italy compensating for a slightly more volatile level of trading on Bordeaux.

“As for the prestige on-trade and independent retail sectors, which are our key areas of focus, we have seen sustained interest in the premium and fine wine offering from our portfolio.

“Our plans for 2018 are very much to build on and consolidate what was a very strong performance in 2017, particularly in the context of the challenges last year presented and those we anticipate in the year ahead.”

(Photo shows Louis Roederer export manager Thierry Wallaert.)