September 28, 2005
Following a cold and comparatively dry winter, the Chardonnay vineyards got the viticultural year off to a good start with budbreak falling on dates corresponding to the averages for the last 25 years – 14th April for Chardonnay, 18th April for Pinot Noir and 21st April for Pinot Meunier. For the rest of the year, the Chardonnay vines continued to reach each stage of their development ahead of the other two varieties.
Canopy growth began in excellent conditions, thanks to the Champagne area having normal levels of rainfall, unlike some other regions in France, which suffered from a serious lack of rain. Average total rainfall for the period April to June amounted to 160 mm (95% of the thirty-year average of 169 mm). Moderate temperatures from the end of May to the beginning of June limited canopy growth during the crucial disbudding period. Flowering was also early this year, with rapid full bloom in sunny weather on 15th June in the Chardonnay vines, 17th June among the Pinot Noirs and 19th June among the Pinot Meuniers. Fruit set was equally rapid due to the extremely fine weather.
Without being an especially hot summer in general, July 2005 was hot but wet, while August was quite dry but cooler than usual. These conditions contributed to the steady, healthy development of both vegetation and grape bunches. A period of very hot weather beginning on 26th August led to an incredible acceleration of the ripening process and lent support to forecasts of early harvest dates.
As in 2004, September was a glorious month! Harvesting went ahead in ideal conditions with bright, sunny days and cool nights. The Chardonnay grapes of the Côte des Blancs were the first to be brought in, starting on 12th September, followed by the Marne Valley Pinot Noirs on 13th September and the Montagne de Reims Pinot Noirs on 15th September.
Quantity-wise, Louis Roederer vineyards yielded slightly more than the volume fixed for the Champagne appellation this year, which was 11,500 kilos per hectare plus 1,500 kilos per hectare of reserve wines, making 13,000 kilos per hectare in all. Quality-wise, the average potential alcoholic strength of grapes arriving at the winery was a little over 10 natural degrees with average acidity at 6.8 grams per litre. These figures are similar to those of 2004 and 2000.
Initial tasting sessions have confirmed that the Chardonnays are indeed excellent wines with very delicate, fruit and mineral aromas and good length. The Pinot Noirs are concentrated and structured and are particularly first-rate from the grand cru vineyards where they were able to ripen perfectly. As we write, we believe the 2005 harvest will provide the opportunity of making some superlative blends… and probably vintage champagne, if the winter’s tasting sessions confirm our current impressions.