Skip to main content

How Champagne Producer Louis Roederer Innovates While Also Staying Old School

Louis Roederer and Champagne go way back. The original French estate, set in the heart of the Champagne region in Reims, is the same age as the United States.

The label’s most recognizable work is almost certainly Cristal, the glitzy Champagne that’s enjoyed significant cameos in countless pop music videos. You know, the one that comes with its own matching bag and box or in a bedazzled 3-liter vessel for $3,500. Per the stereotype, it’s often poured frivolously next to stacks of cash and club-goers swaying in slow motion.

Louis Roederer Official
Louis Roederer/Facebook

Today, it’s one of the leading producers of both Old World and New World bubbly. Roederer makes a family of Champagnes back home and, as of the early 1980s, a line of sparkling wines from near the Mendocino Coast of California. For generations, the producer has garnered industry respect for sidestepping norms for quality and environmental concerns. Such maneuvers involve everything from meticulously studied vineyard rows that emphasize detail and vintage variation (rows that they own as oppose to merely source from) to taking on practices that, while more expensive, are easier on Mother Nature.

The recent release of the 2012 Cristal was Roederer’s first made from fruit farmed according to biodynamics. As of late last year, half of the label’s vineyards were farmed in such a way, with the rest being organic. The label has been quite vocal about the move, saying that the sustainably minded viticultural approach is the future of Champagne. It’s been reported that Roederer hasn’t used herbicide since 2000.

You’d have to be a fly on the wall in the company’s offices to actually know what’s driving the farming approach. At the very least, Roederer is saying the right things. The brand claims the farming techniques are entirely the byproduct of global warming and an interest in more flavorful wines, not some trend. In Champagne, it’s still very much a minority move, with an estimated 2-3% of the acreage farmed biodynamically. This makes a very visible producer like Roederer taking that plunge all the more important.

Seven generations on, Roederer continues to innovate with a large slice of the industry observing and taking note. The company is looking into electrical farm equipment and has entertained some of the more out-there ideas, such as more than a decade ago when Roederer took seriously the idea of aging wine underwater. Their famous Cristal? It’s set to be fully Biodynamic later this year (although you’d never really know it as the brand don’t plan to advertise such a thing on the label).

Louis Roederer Official/Facebook

Caleb Ganzer is a sommelier based in New York. Before becoming wine director and managing partner at La Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels, he was a somm at lauded restaurant Eleven Madison Park in Manhattan. In 2017, he was named “sommelier of the year” by Food & Wine.

“Roederer as a house has a solid job both positioning itself in the market and making good wine — the easiest way to keep street cred in the business,” says Ganzer.

“It doesn’t hurt that Cristal is actually a solid wine, albeit expensive,” he adds. “The Brut is also good juice, as is the Brut Nature 2009,” he says, adding that the collaborative label, made with the help of renowned designer Philippe Stark, didn’t hurt either. “Looking more inward, the Roederer estate in the U.S. has always been one of the best domestic sparkling wines for the money.”

It’s one thing for a company like Ford to release an ad showing its staff happily planting trees, or AB InBev talking up sustainability. It’s quite another to actually do these things, routinely and earnestly. At the American headquarters, in the Anderson Valley of Northern California, the approach is much the same. Roederer wanted the right fit before it moved to acquire what was Merry Edwards Winery. It sought a similar ethos, based around green framing techniques, a reduced carbon footprint, and the added attention that tends to come with family-run operations.

“They’ve been quite vocal about pushing toward more biodynamic farming on the land they own,” Ganzer says. “I’m always a bit dubious of large corporate green washing but they truly appear to be putting their money where their mouth is.”

So far, it appears the Roederer way is one of leading by thoughtful example, not just pursuing the bottom line. Coupled with the well-made effervescence that ends up in the glass, it’s a big reason why a lot of drinks pros look to the brand for consistency as well as breakthroughs.

Editors' Recommendations

Mark Stock
Mark Stock is a writer from Portland, Oregon. He fell into wine during the Recession and has been fixated on the stuff since…
How to grill spicy Turkish Adana kebabs (and more tips)
Haven't tried Turkish kebabs yet? You're missing out — here's what to know
Turkish Adana kebab plate with grilled vegetables

In the Middle East, there are countless varieties of grilled and skewered meats. Many of these kebabs are made with ground meat, ranging from the parsley-rich kofta kebab of Lebanon to the soft and savory koobideh kebab of Iran. One of the most famous of these styles is the Adana kebab, a spicy Turkish lamb mince fragrant with chili peppers. Is your mouth watering yet? Keep reading to learn more about Adana kebabs.
What is the Adana kebab?

The Adana kebab originated from the southern Turkish city of Adana. A proper Adana kebab is serious business in Turkey — the dish is officially a protected designation of origin (PDO). Essentially, this means that a true Adana kebab can only be made in the city of Adana and only by someone who has cleared a series of rules.

Read more
How to make a perfect milkshake at home every time
Summer is almost here, so it's time hone your milkshake skills
Chocolate milkshake and whipped cream on a table

As the summer months are just around the corner, we're always looking for ways to cool off. It may be hard to believe, but sometimes, we aren't in the mood for a cold beer or cocktail. A smoothie could be a great way to cool off, but sometimes, we want something a little more decadent.

Cue the milkshake. This sweet treat has the deliciousness of ice cream, but you don't have to worry about it running off the cone and down your arm on a hot day. Also, the flavor combinations are limitless. You can go with a classic vanilla or strawberry milkshake, or you can blend in your favorite cookies, candies, and fruits. Also, since we're big boys, who's to stop us from adding a little peppermint schnapps to the blend to make a delicious boozy milkshake?

Read more
This is our new favorite cold brew concentrate for nightcaps and coffee cocktails
Try this cold brew concentrate in everything from desserts to cocktails
People enjoying coffee cocktails.

Some people can have a cup of coffee at 9 p.m. and go right to sleep. The rest of us need to stop drinking caffeine by noon to even try to get to bed at a decent time. But if an end-of-the-day nightcap has you craving something with a coffee flavor, how can you make sure you won't be up all night? The crew at The Manual sampled Explorer's Cold Brew Concentrate — sans caffeine — and wants you to try it shaken, not stirred, in your next espresso martini.
The cold, concentrated truth

Before you make your first creation, know Explorer Cold Brew cares about offsetting emissions, the environmental impact of the whole process, and sourcing organic, fair-trade beans. The company also gives back, with every gourmet purchase leading to a donation to Charity:Water, which brings clean drinking water to areas without it. Every sip of your coffee-themed drink using Explorer Cold Brew is important — remember that.
Pick your caffeine level
Yes, there is a 99.9% caffeine-free option for those late-night drinks to help you unwind. But if you wanted your martini to give you an extra pick-me-up before your night out, choose one of the caffeinated options.
Find your flavor
For the cost of one cup of coffee from Starbucks, you can add a flavor to your cold brew. You could never go wrong with vanilla, but the choice of sea salt caramel is there if you feel adventurous.
Make it an elite elixir
A coffee cocktail will ease you into bed if you add an elixir. The Dreamer is perfect for sleepy time, and The Optimist is there to help you unwind.
A little goes a long way
Remember, this is cold brew concentrate. Don't give the $45 price any side eye. One 32oz bottle will make 20 cups of coffee, making the price per cup around $2.25. Do you know the last time you had cold brew that cheap? Don't lie.
Decaf doesn't have to mean disappointing

Read more