Louis Roederer Rosé 2012: A Gloriously Ethereal And Elegant Champagne
by Ken Gargett
I recently had the opportunity to attend a series of events as part of the Noosa Food and Wine Festival 2018 in Queensland, Australia. Champagne was the focus, and we enjoyed some of the greats: Krug, Veuve Clicquot’s La Grande Dame, Dom Pérignon, Ruinart, Pol Roger, and more. There were a few wines new to me such as a fresh and sprightly non-vintage from Frerejean Frères Premier Cru and the latest vintage rosé from Louis Roederer.
I suspect that Roederer could not make a poor wine if it wanted to, so any new release is always of interest. Unfortunately, this type of event is not the sort of thing where one can sit down and take serious notes without looking like the geekiest wine nerd in the hemisphere. I very rarely ask local distributors for a sample of anything – it can get quite awkward if the wine turns out to be somewhat lesser than one hoped – but I needed to know if this wine really was as good as I thought.
Champagnes have a sort of unofficial hierarchy. Non vintages are the bread and butter of almost all houses. They make a statement as to standards and also exhibit the houses’ so-called DNA.
Vintages are usually a step up in quality and will continue to reflect that DNA while also revealing all the vintage offers, which is especially important in good years. The angels on the top of the tree are cuvee de prestige champagnes – the Cristals, Dom Pérignons, Pol Roger Sir Winstons, Belle Époques, Mumm René Lalous, and their ilk.
Almost every house has one, sometimes more. Rosés slot in according to whether they are non vintage, vintage, or flagship.
This has been thrown into some disarray by the explosion of interest in grower wines, but don’t be fooled. There are those who will lead you down the path to the dark side, suggesting that the larger producers cannot match what the growers can offer. It is not so.
That said, there are some exceptional grower champagnes. They can be divisive – if there is a producer anywhere on the planet that arouses such passion as a love-it-or-hate-it collection as Jacques Selosse then I am yet to find it. Others such as Agrapart, Cédric Bouchard, and a personal favorite, Ulysse Collin, make stellar champagnes.
Disappointment comes when a champagne fails to match the standard to which we unconsciously assign it.
It happens. Though to be fair to the larger producers, for me this typically is more of a vintage thing. I’ve never really understood why anyone bothered with 2003 – yes, there are some decent wines, but I doubt that anyone really thinks they are the standard of those releases around them as the searing heat that impacted the region, following on from some extreme cold much earlier in the year, is not conducive to the finest champagnes (though there have been some very successful warmer years like 1959 and 1976); 1999 was another that didn’t excite me, but there are plenty of fine examples there.
The real excitement comes when we find something that sings; that drinks well above its pay grade. Charles Heidsieck non vintage invariably does so. So, too, do vintages from Pol Roger. There must have been many houses casting an envious eye to the scintillating quality of its 2002 and 2008 vintages, for example. These would happily sit comfortably alongside the finest cuvee de prestige champagnes from most houses.
And so it is with the latest rosé from Louis Roederer, the 2012. This is a brilliant wine.
Roederer has a cuvee de prestige rosé, of course, the rare and extremely expensive Cristal Rosé, and had the new 2012 been served to me blind and I’d been told nothing but the house, I really would have had no difficulty believing it was that famous wine.
This was the most gloriously ethereal and elegant champagne one could imagine, while certainly not lacking in power, line, and length; an array of flavors with nougat to the forefront, surrounded by an entrancing mist of red berries, strawberries, and raspberries. There are darker fruits to be found, a hint of vanilla and some citrus, and more from the orange orchard end of the spectrum. Truly scintillating now, but have no fear about this wine aging for many years to come, if well kept.
The price? Around AUD$130, and for that one could pick up a single bottle of the Cristal Rosé, give or take (not that I would ever discourage anyone from buying the Cristal Rosé). For me, that makes it a worthy contender for the best value wine of the year, even at this early stage.
If Roederer has ever made a better vintage rosé, I can’t recall it. Needless to say, part of the glory must lie with the 2012 vintage. It is very early days for it as yet – the only other 2012s trickling onto the market at this stage tend to be from small growers – but it is one of the most highly regarded vintages of the last 30 years. Along with 2008, its reputation sits perhaps even higher than 2002, alongside 1996, 1990, and 1988.
The hype is in and it looks more than justified.
For those who enjoy the more technical side of things, it is 63 percent Pinot noir and 37 percent Chardonnay. There was no malolactic fermentation involved, which will assist in the aging (I believe), and 24 percent was matured in oak, though there is no influence from it.
Dosage is 9 grams/liter, though it is so finely balanced it seems less. The information does not specify any vineyards, but I’d be surprised if there was not at least a percentage from Cumières, given the success Roederer has had with it in recent years.
This is a champagne I could not recommend more highly.
For more information please visit www.louis-roederer.com/en/wine/rose-vintage.
You might also be interested in Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque Blanc de Blancs: One Of The Finest Champagnes I Have Ever Enjoyed.