A rare encounter
« The Brut Nature 2006 cuvée is the fruit of several convergences: between a historic terroir and a remarkable year,
and between a Champagne House that respects nature
and a creative genius with a free spirit. »
— Frédéric Rouzaud, Managing Director of Champagne Louis Roederer
The distinctive qualities of each parcel are the result of great respect for nature. Louis Roederer’s philosophy is shared by Philippe Starck: both are engaged in a quest for authenticity.
The harvest from each parcel is pressed and vinified separately. Over the months, the wine is tasted and analysed by the oenologists; this provides them with an extensive aromatic palette that gives them a rich choice and enables them to develop blends under the watchful eye of the Cellar Master, Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon. This quest for authenticity matches Philippe Starck’s desire to collaborate on the development of a unique, finely tuned, and authentic cuvée. They decided to draw inspiration from river wines to create a straightforward, medium-dry, terroir-based champagne. Consequently, every measure was taken on the south-facing parcels of Pinot noir to nurture grapes that would attain great maturity, in order to obtain an excellent fruit that would require very minor corrective measures.
Brut Nature 2006 originated here, on one of the terroirs on the Louis Roederer Estate—a vineyard that has been patiently cultivated by the House’s winegrowers and oenologists.
The work of these specialists is a veritable passion: it is based on a vision of wine that consists of a ‘tailor-made’ viticulture and, increasingly (over the last decade or so), the principles of biodynamic cultivation. Based on close observation of the vines and their environment, this method endeavours to respect the characteristics of each of the 410 parcels in the Louis Roederer vineyard; it also endeavours to preserve and cultivate their originality by using soil amendments, pruning, leaf thinning, the grapes’ exposure to the sun, and so on. This quest for perfection, which places research and respect for the terroir on an equal footing, perfectly reflects Louis Roederer’s philosophy: an independent Champagne House with a deep attachment to the land, as attested by its wines, which have a straightforward character, and are pure and extremely chiselled, expressing the aromas of each parcel.
The years pass and each is different from the last. The same is true of the champagne climate, which sometimes produces unusually mature harvests with a unique flavour.
2006 was unusual for several reasons. After a mild autumn in 2005, the winter weather became very cold in November. The temperature remained very low from January to April, which delayed the onset of spring and its beneficial effects on the vines. Spring began later than usual and the period was marked by several episodes of frost and long weeks of rain. The rain saturated the ground and enabled the vineyard to survive a blisteringly hot July, punctuated by violent storms; the Champagne region experienced some of the hottest weather on record. But this was followed in August by a series of exceptionally cool and rainy days followed by a sunny and dry climate in September. During the harvest period, this type of weather—alternating between contrasting temperatures and periods of rain and sun—during the key periods of the grapes’ maturity produced an exceptional and very promising harvest.
A rich wine
When a champagne has been developed, it is complemented by a liqueur de dosage. However, depending on the vintage, certain champagnes require very little dosage—or none at all.
Blended and bottled, the wine develops its bouquet in the darkness of the cellars over several years. Riddled regularly, the wine becomes more transparent as the deposits settle in the bottlenecks. When the deposits are removed, the small quantity of wine that is necessarily lost during the operation is replaced by the liqueur de dosage; composed of cane sugar and reserve wines, it has to maintain the terroir’s authenticity. While Louis Roederer’s champagnes have relatively little dosage added (9 to 10 grams per litre), some vintages require absolutely no additional sugar. Philippe Starck is quite adamant about his vision of the ideal champagne: ‘it must be a non-dosed champagne.’In 2006, the Pinot noir grapes from the Cumières terroir were exceptionally mature and had a rare depth of flavour and texture. Because of the fruitiness and richness of the grapes, the Cellar Master decided ‘to allow nature to take its course’ and, consequently, not to add any dosage. These grapes were to be the core ingredient of this new wine that had been developed with Philippe Starck. The Brut Nature 2006 cuvée was now a reality.
The Brut Nature 2006 cuvée, developed by Louis Roederer and Philippe Starck, has a strong character: it gives full expression to and captures the spirit of its terroir.
The Cumières terroir produces intense Pinot noir with great vinosity (without malolactic fermentation) and slightly spicy notes, which is very characteristic of this village. Because of this exceptional maturity, no dosage was added to this cuvée. Complemented by some Chardonnays, this cuvée is ample, elegant, and extremely pure; the wine’s smooth and velvety structure is combined with the remarkable freshness and fruitiness of the grapes that are characteristic of Louis Roederer’s champagnes. Developed with great care—the pressure does not exceed 5 kilos—, the bubbles blend into the fruit. Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon suggests that it should be served at 13° at the end of the afternoon as a refreshment, as an aperitif to whet the palate, or at the end of a meal, to truly appreciate its rich flavour.
‘The theme of the bottle of Brut Nature 2006 is really related to its contents,’ explains Philippe Starck, ‘and the contents were so potent that I decided to design a bottle that was stripped of any superfluous embellishment.’
Philippe Starck chose an untreated and unpainted tin sealing capsule, without any inscriptions, whose grey nuances would convey the cuvée’s elegance and authenticity. And the label is a water-resistant Japanese-inspired paper that can be printed and embossed. The reason: the most significant words would be highlighted in colour and the others to be simply inscribed and evocative. Together, they sum up the story of the champagne: ‘This is a Brut Nature Vintage champagne produced in 2006 by Louis Roederer and Philippe Starck in Reims, France’. This perfectly expresses their quest for the elegance of simplicity.
‘Brut Nature 2006 is both a wonderful adventure and a complete creation: both of the product and its production processes.’
Interview of Frédéric Rouzaud and Philippe Stark