No wine is more suitable for a celebration than an exclusive champagne. The tradition of drinking Champagne during a special occasion dates back to 1789, when royal courts were richly pouring champagne. Today we love to pop a bottle as the clock strikes midnight on New Year's Eve or when we want to celebrate a special occasion like a birthday or an important professional landmark.
We selected four Champagne Houses that are respected worldwide for their history, vision and high-quality champagne: Krug, Louis Roederer, Bollinger and the relatively young house Jacques Selosse. It is always our pleasure when we can add one of their champagne to our collection.
The house Krug
The history of Krug
The house Krug was founded in 1843 by Joseph Krug, a man who broke with convention to follow his vision. For almost twenty years he worked at Jacquesson, the leading Champagne House of that time. He even became a partner. At age 42, when most men in his position would be close to retiring, he decided to pursue his dream. He wanted to create a great Champagne year after year regardless of variations in climate.
For three years he and wine merchant Hippolyte de Vivès worked in secret and tested new blends. In 1843 he founded the House of Krug & Compagnie. Joseph Krug was convinced the terroir was crucial and you needed to taste the wines separately plot by plot to make the right selection. To fight the climate variations he began to build a reserve of wines, each made from a separate plot so its unique character was saved. This way he could compose the perfect mix each year whatever the weather or harvest was.
His passion and way of working have been handed down from one generation to the next one. The house Krug is now run by the sixth generation and led by Olivier Krug, who keeps the legacy of Joseph Krug alive.
The making of Krug champagne
The Champagne House is mainly based in Reims, the capital city of the Champagne region. They own 30% of their vineyards while the rest of the grapes are bought from long-term contract growers. They use Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes in their champagne.
The individual selection of each plot is pressed and stored separately in wooden casks, which are smaller than tanks. They remain in the casks for several weeks and between December and January, they are moved to small stainless-steel vats. When the wines are not being used for that year’s assemblage they are stored in the House’s library of 150 reserve wines. Later they will be used in a Krug Grand Cuvée or Krug Rosé.
After bottling, the champagne is stored in the House’s cellars for years of ageing before being released onto the market. The house produces five champagne: Krug Grand Cuvée, Krug Rosé, Krug Vintage, Krug Clos du Mesnil and Krug Clos d’Ambonnay.
A closer look at Krug Clos du Mesnil
In 1971 they bought six hectares of vines around the renowned Chardonnay village of Mesnil-sur-Oger, including a walled vineyard of 1.85 acres in the heart of the village. Because of its unusual location, this plot enjoys a microclimate that gives the grapes their unique character. This inspired the family to devote - for the first time - a Champagne to a single plot. Krug Clos du Mesnil 1979 was the first in line and presented in 1986.
Krug Clos du Mesnil is made from Chardonnay grapes only and from one single year. The champagne is kept in the House’s wine cellars for over a decade before being launched onto the market.
The house Louis Roederer
The history of Louis Roederer
Louis Roederer inherited the Champagne House in 1833 and decided he wanted to master every stage of wine creation. He bought some Grand Cru vineyards, which was a bit unusual as other Champagne Houses bought their grapes. Louis Roederer was convinced the combination of soil, passion for tradition and vision made a Champagne truly great.
In 1870 they began to export their champagne to the United States and even Russia. Up until today, the Louis Roederer House is an independent, family-owned company. The house and Louis Roederer’s vision are in the good hands of the seventh generation, led by Frédéric Rouzaud.
The making of Louis Roederer champagne
The Champagne House owns 240 hectares with 410 parcels in three classic Champagne districts: the Montagne de Reims, the Vallée de la Marne, and the Côte des Blancs. Only one-third of the grapes are bought from long-term contract growers. They use Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes in their champagne. The house is also the largest biodynamic estate in the Champagne region.
The grapes are collected in buckets and pressed in Louis Roederer’s own press-houses. Afterwards, the musts are stored in small stainless steel tanks or oak vats for fermentation. This way the character of each plot is being preserved up to the blending stage.
During winter they taste the wines and decide which ones they will use immediately and which ones are to put aside for future Brut Premier champagne.
The house produces seven champagne: the multi-vintages Brut Premier and Carte Blanche, the vintages Vintage, Rosé Vintage and Blanc de Blanc Vintage and the Cuvée de Prestige champagne Cristal and Cristal Rosé.
A closer look at Louis Roederer Cristal
The first Louis Roederer Cristal was created in 1876 to satisfy Tsar Alexander II, who asked the house to reserve the best cuvée for him every year. The champagne was called Cristal because the bottle was made of transparent lead-crystal glass with a flat bottom.
Louis Roederer Cristal is made of 40% Chardonnay and 60% Pinot Noir grapes. It is aged in the cellars of the house for 6 years and left there for a further eight months after disgorgement. This Champagne can be conserved for over twenty years and will still taste fresh and balanced.
The house Bollinger
The history of Bollinger
The story of Bollinger starts in 1829 when Athanase de Villermont, Joseph Bollinger and Paul Renaudin founded Renaudin-Bollinger & Cie. Almost a decade later Joseph Bollinger married Athanase’s daughter. Their sons, Joseph and Georges, would later take over the company and extend its vineyards. In 1920 Georges’ son Jacques was only 24 years old when he inherited the company. Together with his cousins and wife, known as ‘Madame Jacques,’ he pulled the company through the difficult years of recession and the Second World War.
For decades the company was led by an inheritor of Joseph Bollinger. But in 2008, for the first time in history, the family appointed a chairman who was not a family member. Today the house is led by Jérôme Philipon with the full support of the family.
The making of Bollinger champagne
The Champagne House owns 170 hectares of which 85% are planted with Grand Cru and Premier Cru vines, spread over seven main vineyards. Aÿ, Avenay, Tauxières, Louvois and Verzenay are planted with Pinot Noir, Cuis with Chardonnay and Champvoisy with Pinot Meunier. The house Bollinger produces the majority of their grapes themselves and has strict guidelines how the vines should be managed.
From the moment the harvest is over they taste the different wines to get a feel for the specific characters of each plot. Only the finest wines will be vinified in old oak casks. The wines are aged in barrels of which some are nearly 100 years old. When the barrels are not being used they are filled, dried and mended according to traditional methods.
Wines that are not used for that year’s vintage are saved for Grand Crus and Premier Crus reserve wines. These wines are bottled in magnums and aged for five to fifteen years. Bollinger has a more than 750.000 magnums, which are saved cru by cru, year by year. This reserve wine system is unique in Champagne and contributes to the style of the Special Cuvée.
The house produces five champagnes: the multi-vintage Special Cuvée and the vintages Grande Année, R.D., Vieille Vignes Françaises and Coteaux Champenois La Côte au Enfants.
The house Jacques Selosse
The history of Jacques Selosse
The house of Jacques Selosse has the youngest history of the four Champagne Houses discussed in this blog. The company was founded in 1949 in Avize, at the heart of the Côte des Blancs area.
When Jacques’ son Anselme Selosse took over the company in 1980, he decided to ban chemicals from the land and to focus on biodynamic winemaking. This resulted in healthy soils and expressive tasting notes. He was also one of the first winemakers to apply the winemaking techniques of white Burgundy to Champagne and inspired many young winegrowers. In 1994 Gault-Millau named him France’s best winemaker in every category.
The making of Jacques Selosse champagne
All the grapes used to produce their champagne are grown in vineyards owned by the house Jacques Selosse. They use Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes and have plots in Avize, Cramant, Oger, Le Mesnil, Ay, Mareuil-sur-Ay and Ambonnay. The vines are pruned rigorously to keep production low. All grapes are vinified separately in small Burgundian barrels that have been brought in from Domaine Leflaive.
After the harvest in June, the wines are fermented in oak barrels while most Champagne Houses use stainless steel tanks. The young wines are regularly stirred up to mix the yeast and sediment with the wine. A year later the champagne is being bottled and placed in the houses’ cellars to age for a couple of years before being launched.
The house produces six champagne: Substance, Contraste, Millésime, Brut Initial, Version Originale and Rosé.