PA RT 2 : DAY 3, LUNCH
A harrowing drive through torrential rains on the A4 from Paris had us running late, wet and thirsty. We hardly had time for dropping off my daughter at her new campus—never mind lunch—if we were to make Louis Roederer in time for the 2 p.m. tour I had arranged from Toronto. No matter. The fizz was what brought us here, and liquid gold would be sustenance enough.
But before quenching our thirst, a tour. This began as I like them best—with something I did not previously know. In this instance, the news was revealed in the Roederer entrance corridor, in an atrium with a domed ceiling studded with circles of light that looked to me an awful lot like those signature thick bases of Cristal bottles, and where a bust of Tsar Alexander II stood on a pedestal. “Cristal was created for the Tsar in 1876,” explained our gracious and charming host, Roederer hospitality manager Eve-Claire Mathieu. Indeed, Cristal’s unique signature bottle—punt-free, and clear—was created out of Tsarist considerations (specifically, to facilitate spotting poison in a bottle).“We use the same formula today.” Well, same old-vine chardonnay and pinot nor from the same chalky soils in Roederer’s own vineyards—but fortunately, with a whole lot less sugar added than what Russians favoured back in the Tsar’s day. From there, onwards, down a floor to see the huge metal vats and the bottling facility, and down another level, into more historic territory, where the chalky walls were darkened with black mould, and my mother kept loitering suspiciously by a wall against which 34,668 bottles of champers were stacked without racks, neck to neck, floor to ceiling. Next, down another level, into the cellars, where rows of full riddling racks were lined up as far as one could see, receding unrelentingly into the distant darkness, as if in a dream. Then, at last, we had time for tasting. Do Roederer Brut Premier and Rosé Vintage and Cristal taste better now that I’ve been there and can match place to taste? Maybe. But they tasted pretty damn good before, too...*
Louis Roederer Champagne, 21 boulevard Lundy, 51100 Reims, louis-roederer.com
* Click here for Jacob Richler’s tasting notes from the Roederer cellars.
TSAR NICHOLAS II, WHO SPENT
MORE ON CRISTAL THAN OLIGARCHS AND HIP-HOP STARS
THE CELLARS AT ROEDERER EVE-CLAIRE MATHIEU EXPLAINS DISGORGEMENT
34,668 BOTTLES OF ROEDERER