chalk and soil in the shape of a leaf with the Louis Roederer logo in the middle
chalk and soil in the shape of a leaf with the Louis Roederer logo in the middle

LUX attends an exclusive masterclass with Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon, Cellar Master at Louis Roederer, to try the never tasted before cuvées of Collection 244

Louis Roederer was very quick to notice the challenges that climate change was going to bring to the champagne market. Thus, ten years ago they founded the concept of Collection, to evolve their wines with the ever changing natural landscape. Lécaillon explains that instead of surrendering to the effects of climate change, we need to work alongside them.

A horse in a field
A bottle of champagne surrounded by soil and chalk
A bunch of black grapes

Dramatic changes to our climate leads to powerful changes in the wines we consume. 2019 was a year of record-breaking high temperatures from intense heat waves. However, the 2019 harvest was highly successful, delivering wines that were dense and fresh and forming the basis of Collection 244.

A horse in a vineyard

The blend consists of all the the champagne house’s origins: 1/3 from “La Rivière” Estate, 1/3 from “La Montagne” Estate and 1/3 from “La Côte” Estate. The Collection is made up of 54% of the 2019 harvest and 36% from the wines of the Perpetual Reserve.

On the future of the wine industry and its priorities, Lécaillon said, “after the fight for freshness, we are more in pursuit of finesse, because the wine of tomorrow is the wine of finesse.” 

Two men wearing brown jackets and shirts
branches stood up around a bottle of champagne
A man wearing a suit holding a bottle of champagne

Whilst tasting through the vintage for the very first time, Lécaillon said “it is ripe with high sugar but elegant and precise…expressive & fruity. [The vintage is] still young with a reductive bouquet. Some fine citrus. Hazelnut from Reserve Perpetuelle. Concentrated and fleshly texture. Creamy but fresh and alive. Almost a Blanc de Blancs definition. Elegant, precise and transparent. Round, textured but fresh and light, chalky. Seamless, dense, precise and perfectly integrated. The finish is even more salivating.”

Find out more: www.louis-roederer.com/collection244

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Hotel courtyard with leaves and red umbrellas and awnings
A lounge with large arched windows and cream and brown furniture

The Plaza Athénée’s effortlessly chic, light-filled La Galerie

In the first part of our luxury travel views column from the Autumn/Winter 2022 issue, LUX’s Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai checks in at the Hôtel Plaza Athénée in Paris

Many hoteliers I respect have told me that the highest priority, when creating a landmark new city hotel, is not the architecture or the name of the chef running the kitchen, but engaging and attracting the local community. A great city hotel should feel like a private club. This is partly so that the public spaces are filled when business travellers and tourists are thinner on the ground, but also because any discerning traveller wants to feel they are going where the insiders go. 

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This philosophy drove the success of Ian Schrager’s first boutique hotels in the 1980s, and continues thanks to the panache of today’s hoteliers. It has also driven the world’s great hotels since their inception: what were the original Ritz and Savoy, if not gathering places for the great and good? Urban tribes may have diversified and expanded now, giving a greater spread of aspiration, but the principles remain. Conversely, it is dispiriting to arrive at a new hotel in a new city to find that everyone else there seems to be as foreign and clueless as you are. 

A lounge with a view of the Eiffel Tower out the window

One of the hotel’s peerless Eiffel Tower views

All of this brings me to the Plaza Athénée in Paris. You are welcomed into the marble-lined lobby and can take a peek at the outdoor atrium, one of many areas designed by interiors star Bruno Moinard. And you get a frisson that you have truly arrived in Paris because its Le Relais restaurant is the work, play and cutting place of the Parisian elite. If you want to form a new political grouping or gather key players together for a new deal, this is the place where your plan will likely be hatched, matched and dispatched. 

Having said all that, arriving in my suite, it wouldn’t have mattered if the hotel had only ever housed tourists. The living room of the suite, on the corner of avenue Montaigne, looks directly down the street, across the river, to the Eiffel Tower. Like the best views, it changes through the day, dusk and night to create a different illusion. By day, the tower is a glowering metallic structure. At night, illuminated and with lasers pointing from it as if it’s a gun turret in an old video arcade game, it feels otherworldly. 

Hotel courtyard with leaves and red umbrellas and awnings

The charming La Cour Jardin, designed by Bruno Moinard

The furnishing in the suite is determinedly classical. So much so that it has very much come back into fashion. You have a reception room big enough to hold a cocktail party for 30; there is a baby grand piano in the anteroom and bathrooms for guests of the hotel’s guests. 

Read more: Hotel of the Month: The Lygon Arms, the Cotswolds

My favourite moment? After dinner, a glass of Louis Roederer champagne at an outside table on La Terrasse Montaigne. For an evening, at least, I could have been a member of a Parisian “grande famille”, enjoying a nightcap at their local bar. Altogether a priceless experience at the Plaza. 

Find out more: dorchestercollection.com/en/paris/hotel-plaza-athenee

This article first appeared in the Autumn/Winter 2022/23 issue of LUX

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Woman in a white and black top holding a pink case of champagne standing next to a man in a blue shirt and black blazer
A group photo of women and two men on either side of the group

Louis Roederer CEO Frédéric Rouzaud, Prize judges and LUX contributing editors Maria Sukkar and Maryam Eisler, Prize winner Akosua Viktoria Adu-Sanyah, judges Carrie Scott and Brandei Estes, and LUX proprietor Darius Sanai

Philanthropists, art collectors and sustainability leaders gathered in London for the awarding of the inaugural Louis Roederer Photography Prize for Sustainability, masterminded by LUX Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai under the aegis of Louis Roederer CEO Frédéric Rouzaud

Two women and a man smiling for a photograph

Sir Guy Weston, Akosua Viktoria Adu-Sanyah and Ina Sarikhani Sandmann

A blonde woman wearing a green coat reading a catalogue

Clara Hastrup

Two women looking at a camera smiling

Maria Sukkar and Maryam Eisler

A woman and two men laughing

Simon Leadsford, Richard Billett and Olivia Capaldi

A man holding a champagne glass wearing a green t shirt and black jacket

Olu Ogunnaike

A woman holding a copy of LUX

Cheryl Newman

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Woman in a white and black top holding a pink case of champagne standing next to a man in a blue shirt and black blazer

Akosua Viktoria Adu-Sanyah and Frédéric Rouzaud

A woman wearing a blue scarf and coat standing next to a woman in a green coat and another woman wearing a black suit

Lady Alison Myners, Maryam Eisler and Samantha Welsh

A man wearing a black jumper, white shirt and blue blazer

Justin Travlos

A woman wearing a peach coloured coat and black bag looking at a picture on a wall

Emilie Pugh

Woman in a white and black top holding a pink case of champagne standing next to two men in shirts and blazers

Darius Sarai, Akosua Viktoria Adu-Sanyah and Frédéric Rouzaud

A woman in a white dress giving a talk

Alexandra Tilling

A woman in a multicoloured top standing next to a woman in a grey dress

Maryam Eisler and Angela McCarthy

pictures on a white wall

The shortlisted works of the Louis Roederer Photography Prize for Sustainability

Vinly on a window that says The Louis Roederer Photography Prize for Sustainability

The awards ceremony for the Prize was held at Nobu Hotel London Portman Square

A woman with blonde cornrows wearing black holding a champagne glass

Péjú Oshin

A woman in a black jumpsuit showing another woman an artwork

Hoda Shahzadeh and Candice Tucker

A man in a white shirt

Ola Shobowale

A man and woman holding pink cases of champagne

Akosua Viktoria Adu-Sanyah and Jasper Goodall

Find out more: louis-roederer.com

This article first appeared in the Autumn/Winter 2022/23 issue of LUX

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a fire coming out of a crater

Chloe Dewe Mathews, The Door to Hell, Turkmenistan 2012, from the series Caspian: the Elements

Our sister company, Quartet Consulting, has launched a new photography prize to highlight important issues in sustainability. We live in an era in which we are becoming increasingly aware that we can’t get something out of our planet without affecting something else – usually negatively. Farming is affected, as are many other sectors, and wine (and champagne) is a product of farming. Pesticides poison the ecosystem and threaten biodiversity, as does overcropping, exhausting the soil.

For more than 20 years the redoubtable Champagne house Louis Roederer has been engaged in a “renaissance viticulture’. This allows all the nuances of the Champagne terroir to be fully expressed, through massal selection, gentle pruning, and daily practices that respect the living environment. It also uses virtuous practices inspired by the permaculture model, which allow the ecosystem to self-regulate. These include the use of biodynamic composts, allowing the land to lie fallow for long periods, maintaining hedgerows and low stone walls, growing fruit trees and installing beehives.

mountains and a lake

Akosua Viktoria Adu-Sanyah, Point In Time [Santa Inés Glacier, Seno Ballena]

Cristal, the House’s famed flagship label, has been produced biodynamically since 2012. And, in fact, Louis Roederer is considered a pioneer of sustainability in the region. However, they haven’t shouted about it: there’s no biodynamic label on Cristal.

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Meanwhile, the family’s Louis Roederer Foundation in Paris has, since it was founded in 2003, supported emerging artistic photographers. So, it seems only natural that these two strands have come together in the inaugural Louis Roederer Photography Prize for Sustainability, launched in London this season by LUX’s sister company, Quartet Consulting. The prize brings together some of the most important art-world names. Among the judges are Azu Nwagbogu, the founder and director of both African Artists’ Foundation (AAF) and the Lagos Photo Festival; Maria Sukkar, an uber collector, whose ISelf Collection was on show at the Whitechapel Gallery in 2017; Brandei Estes, the director and head of the Photographs Department at Sotheby’s; and Darius Sanai, the editor-in-chief of LUX.

lit up trees and wheat in a field

Emergence (from Twilight Series)

The nominators, who selected the photographers for the judges, read like a hall of fame of the art and photography world, including the artist Shirin Neshat, Photo London founder Fariba Farshad, David Hill of David Hill Gallery in London, and the artist and photography curator Cheryl Newman.

Read more: Professor Nathalie Seddon On Biodiversity And Climate Resilience

The theme of the inaugural prize was Terroir, a French term used to describe how a region’s environmental conditions affect the production of wine – used here to showcase how photographers globally are using their art to capture issues relating to sustainability.

As the spotlight on climate change intensifies, a host of awards have tackled the subject through photography, including the Italian Sustainability Photo Award, among others. In 2017 the Foundation launched its Louis Roederer Discovery Award in conjunction with the eminent Rencontres d’Arles, the first international festival of photography.

yellow car seats behind a wooden steering wheel and a blue painting

Sahab Zaribaf, superannuation

“The Louis Roederer Photography Prize for Sustainability has come at the time when ecology, sustainability and a reimagining of our life methods need further interrogation and investigation,” explains Nwagbogu. “Every aspect of our contemporary life is improved or illuminated through photography, and I was glad to see so many talented artists recognised for their contribution to humanity and sustainability through photography.”

Read more: Artist Precious Okoyomon on Nature & Creativity

Sanai says, “it was both wonderful and disconcerting to be chair of the judges and creator of this magnificent prize. Wonderful, because the breadth and depth of creativity and execution in the art of photography was astounding. Disconcerting, because it is impossible to make a quality of judgement around such different but brilliant interpretations of the theme.”

a dog on a lead playing in the grass and flowers

Sian Davey, Untitled/WIP

Of the 26 entrants, we present below the six shortlisted photographers. The winner and two runners-up were announced in late spring. The winner will have their works considered for the Foundation’s collection, alongside a cash prize of £5,000, an exhibition at the Nobu Hotel Portman Square, plus some rather special champagne.

black and white image of a man and woman standing over a barbecue

Elizabeth Bick, Winter light

“The prize celebrates two of my favourite interests: the power of photography and a concern for our planet,” says Maryam Eisler, one of the judges.

Nominator Midge Palley on photographer Chloe Dewe Mathews

a book with pictures of mountains inside it

Chloe Dewe Mathews, Spread from the book In Search of Frankenstein 2018

I first met Chloe in a café in London, while trying to get her to take on a photographic project in Provence with me. She finally relented, despite her full schedule. Shoair Mavlian (a curator at Tate Modern) beautifully describes Chloe’s practice as exploring “ways in which photography can project the past onto the present, allowing for time to be expanded and contracted, and multiple narratives to be explored side by side.” I look at the images again and again to appreciate the beauty and intellectual depths of Chloe’s photography.

Judge Carrie Scott on photographer Elizabeth Bick

children sitting at a table eating strawberries

Elizaebth Bick, Wild Strawberries

It was the eerie familiarity, offset by a hyper-real aesthetic that drew me into Elizabeth’s compositions. Pair that with her mission to study the island of Fårö, and a people who live primarily off the natural resources of the land and sea, in a style that references Ingmar Bergman, and I was sold. Her style, in other words, is singularly cinematic and yet anchored in reality. That’s a place I want photography to take me to.

Nominator David Hill on photographer Jasper Goodall

green trees in a forest

Jasper Goodall, Cedars (from Twighlight Series)

Jasper Goodall’s work carries an elusive magic – his nocturnal images seeming to act like portals to another dimension. His is a very considered approach, not dissimilar to the work of the great American environmentalist photographers of the 20th century, but, here, viewed through the prism of a Brothers Grimm fairy tale. The resulting images are strikingly beautiful and utterly contemporary.

Nominator Cheryl Newman on photographer Siân Davey

a girl standing in red underwear in a field

Sian Davey, Untitled/WIP

At a time when our relationship with nature feels increasingly fragile, Siân Davey’s project, ‘The Garden’, offers a space for reconnection and healing. Her portraits are an invitation to share the garden, created with her son Luke, abundant with wildflowers and butterflies. Her series speaks to our humanity, joy and our inherent need to nurture ourselves and our planet.

Judge Maryam Eisler on photographer Sahab Zaribaf

A boy wearing a black t shirt floating in water

Sahab Zaribaf, Inertia

I had never come across Sahab Zaribaf’s work prior to this prize. And I’m a great believer in first impressions when it comes to photography. Sahab’s work punched me to the core. It belongs to the language of visual poetry: ethereal and timeless, beautiful and painterly. It’s a language that seems to be memory-based, one where absence is more present than actual presence.

Nominator Adama Delphine Fawundu on photographer Akosua Viktoria Adu-Sanyah

a close up of a brown plant

Akosua Viktoria Adu-Sanyah, macrocystis pyrifera [Patagonia]

I am thoroughly impressed by Akosua Viktoria Adu-Sanyah’s innovative approach to image-making. I am especially excited that her work fuels discussion and action around pertinent social issues, such as climate change and equity.

By Rebecca Anne Proctor

This article appears in the Summer 2022 issue of LUX

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An arrow sign saying 'Red Rock Terrace' with bushes and a pink rose
An arrow sign saying 'Red Rock Terrace' with bushes and a pink rose

Diamond Creek Vineyards was founded in 1968 in Napa, California. Image courtesy of Diamond Creek

Diamond Creek is a name that resonates among the most discerning international wine collectors. Its wines, made from fully organic vineyards with minimal environmental damage, combine distinctiveness, complexity and sophistication. Diamond Creek’s Red Rock Terrace, Volcanic Hill, and Gravelly Meadow, are all based on Cabernet Sauvignon, and all priced around the same elevated level, yet are subtly but distinctly different in character. LUX meets President of Diamond Creek Vineyards, Nicole Carter and Graham Wehmeier, winemaker at the estate, which is now owned by the Louis Roederer champagne house, for a conversation and tasting over Zoom

Graham Wehmeier, winemaker at Diamond Creek:

“One of the magical aspects of this place that you have, just a stone’s throw away, obviously different soils and very different wines as well. To the point where even if you are not a collector or a wine geek or you didn’t know what terroir means or you don’t care, you could still taste the difference [between the different wines], it is that clear from glass to glass.

A vineyard with a road curving round and trees

Diamond Creek Gravelly Meadow Vineyard. Image courtesy of Diamond Creek

The vineyards are very different in terms of temperature, Gravelly Meadow being the coolest, Volcanic Hill being the warmest. When we taste them side by side, the hand print of the three vineyards is quite strong.

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The altitude difference is 30 meters between Red Rock and Volcanic Hill, the top of Red Rock is almost level with the top of Volcanic Hill, then they both go down to the creek, which is where Gravelly Meadow is. It is the lowest, that is also why it is so cool. The cooling down there is so noticeable, on a hot day.

The creek has a big effect, in terms of soil difference. The creek’s soil for whatever geological reasons really stops on the north side of the creek and then the red soil starts the south of the creek.

A house in the distance surrounded by grape vines

The Diamond Creek Winery. Image courtesy of Diamond Creek

I would agree that Gravelly Meadow has a taste of wet stones. I have no idea if it is something the grapes actually absorb; I would absolutely not rule out that grapes on rocky soil absorb the smell of those rocks, they are sitting there all summer long. It is very romantic, and one of the great things about Diamond Creek: Red Rock gives you these red earth flavours and Gravelly Meadow gives you these gravelly flavours and Volcanic Hill just tastes like a volcano in its flavour spectrum. ”

grapes on a vine

Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. Image courtesy of Diamond Creek

Tasting notes, by LUX Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai:

We tasted the three celebrated single vineyards wines from Diamond Creek from the 2011 and 2018 vintages. 2011 was an interesting vintage in Napa Valley, relatively cool and wet, it was initially looked down on by some influential critics. But cool for Napa is not the same as cool in Northern Europe, and actually wines created by skilled winemakers from top vineyard sites were quite outstanding and balanced, suitable for palates that don’t want the fruit bomb type wines some Napa estates produce, particularly in hotter vintages.

Read more: A new photography prize for sustainability is launched

The tasting focussed on two vintages of its three celebrated single-vineyard wines, Gravelly Meadow, Volcanic Hill and Red Rock Terrace. Made from three near-adjacent vineyards, all based on Cabernet Sauvignon, they have very different characters, due to the differences in soil, temperature and aspect between the three vineyards, a perfect illustration that the concept of terroir can be as powerful in California as it is in Burgundy, where it reflects very distinctive wines, made from the same types of grape, from nearby vineyards.

A vineyard and a road

Diamond Creek Volcanic Hill Vineyard. Image courtesy of Diamond Creek

2011 Diamond Creek Gravelly Meadow:
This is the vineyard by the creek at the bottom of the property, cooler than the others and as its name suggests, surrounded by stones. Sublimely balanced wine, with stones, slightly dusty tannins, cool blue fruit, a little meatiness. Improved for hours.

2011 Diamond Creek Red Rock Terrace:
Richness and tannin in balance, with an underpinning of medium-ripe, almost smoky fruit. Hints of freshly-rolled Havana cigars. More punch than the Gravelly Meadow, but beautiful equilibrium.

A black and white photo of a man and woman

Al and Boots Brounstein, founders of Diamond Creek Vineyards. Image courtesy of Diamond Creek

2011 Diamond Creek Volcanic Hill:
Denser, lots of filaments of black fruit, plenty of power, and a wine that would match an umami cut of steak, like a bavette, with the acidity to match up to a cuisson a l’échalotte.

2018 Diamond Hill Gravelly Meadow
Lashings of stones, lots of blue and red fruits, a kind of transparent limpidity. A wine to enjoy by itself, and also one to keep in the cellar for as many years as you can bear as it will only improve. Pretty much unique: although if you are a fan of the great and classy Bordeaux second growths like Chateau Pichon Comtesse (in the same ownership), you will love this wine.

A vineyard with flowers growing on the side and sun shining on the trees

Diamond Creek Red Rock Terrace Vineyard. Image courtesy of Diamond Creek

2018 Diamond Creek Red Rock Terrace
Wow! Dense yet light, layers of opulence but with a kind of restraint that seems to be the hallmark of this estate. Porterhouse steak with mushrooms; or maybe even just the mushrooms, on a brioche.

2018 Diamond Creek Volcanic Hill
A big wine with rich fruit, but balanced and defined, with definite tannic offset, in no way an unbalanced Napa cliche. Darkness and light in one wine, and so many layers. One to hang on to for 10 years, if you can find it, and if you can bear doing so. We don’t approve of foie gras, but if we did, we would recommend it as an accompaniment; as it stands, go for some marbled Wagyu beef, or a mushroom and truffle tart with a hint of olive oil from a single estate in Tuscany.

Find out more: diamondcreekvineyards.com

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people gathered for a photo

Left to right: Frédéric Rouzaud, Maria Sukkar, Maryam Eisler, Akosua Viktoria Adu-Sanyah, Carrie Scott, Brandei Estes, Darius Sanai

The Louis Roederer Photography Prize for Sustainability was launched in London last week, attracting some stellar names from the two fields to the new Nobu Hotel, for the inaugural awards evening.

The prize was developed by LUX’s sister company Quartet Consulting and Louis Roederer, the acclaimed champagne house behind Cristal, which it makes from 100% organic vineyards. The aim is to raise awareness of the sustainability issues facing the planet, using photography as an artistic medium.

Jasper Goodall and Frédéric Rouzaud

Cheryl Newman

Ina Sandmann Sarikhani, Alexandra Tilling, Richard Billett

Judges’ chair Darius Sanai spoke about the urgency and interconnectedness of the crisis of biodiversity and sustainability, and Frédéric Rouzaud, owner of Louis Roederer, presented the prize of  £5,000 and a magnum of Cristal to the judges’ choice of winner, Akosua Viktoria Adu-Sanyah. Jasper Goodall and Sahab Zaribaf were equal runners up and also received a magnum of Cristal each.

Guests included Sir Guy Weston, Ina Sandmann Sarikhani, Maria Sukkar, and Ola Shobowale. Moving forwards, future editions of the prize will be developed by Quartet Consulting and the Fondation Louis Roederer in Paris.

superannuation by Sahab Zaribaf

a boat in the sea in front of a snowy mountain

Point In Time [Sanata Inés Glacier, Seno Ballena] by Akosua Viktoria Adu-Sanyah

BirchWood (from Twilight Series) by Jasper Goodall

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Emilie Pugh

Booklets created about the Louis Roederer Photography Prize

Darius Sanai

The White Box space at Nobu Hotel London Portman Square

Carrie Scott

The exhibition of the works of Akosua Viktoria Adu-Sanyah, Jasper Goodall and Sahab Zaribaf are on display at the Nobu Hotel London Portman Square until 29th May.

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horse working on vineyard
black and white portrait of a man

Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon, chef de cave of Champagne Louis Roederer. Image by MKB.

Louis Roederer’s Cristal is one of the world’s most glorious wines. Rich, powerful and full-bodied, yet delicate and effervescent, it is a blend of supermodel, Olympic athlete and aesthete, and has a history like no other champagne. It is also misunderstood, used as a status symbol, to the puzzlement of its makers, who simply see it as the pinnacle of organic winemaking. Darius Sanai meets Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon, Roederer’s creator, to talk about the joys of fizz

“Sorry I was late, it’s very busy right now with the harvest.” Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon smiles as he pulls up a chair and sits down opposite me. We are in a wood-panelled tasting room at Louis Roederer’s HQ in Reims, the capital of champagne. Meeting the maker of Cristal at its home may sound glamorous, but all around is evidence that champagne is a drink created on farms, not a kind of luxury brand. My walk through Reims on this chilly autumnal morning took me past monolithic buildings and empty courtyards; the Roederer offices are on a quiet side street lined with warehouse-like buildings, centred around a courtyard which is pretty enough, but functional. People in galoshes stride around. Everyone looks focussed; the tasting room has a historic feel but also feels functional, with a row of empty wine glasses and a sink in the corner. We are drinking small bottles of water, not champagne.

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I came because I was interested in the story of Cristal, past, present and future. This is the champagne created in a clear glass bottle reputedly because Tsar Nicholas II was frightened of being poisoned (and presumably didn’t know about soluble poisons); it then gained a reputation as a nightclubber’s favourite, due to its price and distinctive packaging. And yet all the way through it has been revered by wine connoisseurs as a kind of insider’s top champagne: a wine lover’s champagne. Simultaneously unctuous and refreshing, ravishingly rich yet light, it has a complexity few, if any other champagnes manage to match.

Much of that is down to Jean-Baptiste, who is sitting suitably socially distanced as I start to ask questions, both of us secretly relieved that we are not doing a tasting at 9am to accompany the interview – he has a working day ahead of him, and I a drive.

champagne glass and vineyard

The character of Cristal is carried through from vine to glass as an expression of its terroir. Courtesy of Louis Roederer/Emmanuel Allaire

LUX: What is it that makes Cristal special? Is it a mixture of nature and nurture?
Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon: Yes. Place, the soil, is very important, but that is just one aspect. The winemaker is the link to the terroir, to the place. From this link between man and nature, one creates style, and we have had for a long time a clear vision for our wines. Cristal has a discreet power, it is elegant, it is soft, and then with time the more you taste it the more you realise how strong the wine is. The texture, the roundness, has to be delicious. And then, behind that, you have power, with length and ageing potential. You need time for Cristal – this is its secret. The link to place is in this sort of expression – not too powerful, not too clean, but just in between.

So, nature is of course important, but the way we farm to achieve that style of grape, is the key to Cristal. If we farm the same land differently, we will end up with a completely different wine. There is one champagne house, for example, which picks their grapes a week before ours. That is their vision, for the grapes to be not quite ripe. This is another expression of the same place, the same identity. Farming is at the front while nature gives us the elements. We are very lucky in Champagne, we have a unique mixture of climate and soil. We are between the ocean that brings water and the continent that brings dryness and heat. So, this complex matrix of elements all ends up in Cristal.

Read more: The gastronomic delights of Suvretta House, Switzerland

LUX: You have said that the 2020 vintage formed part of a trilogy of recent vintages. Can you say what you mean by this?
Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon: Yes, ’18, ’19 and ’20 make a trilogy of three beautiful vintages. And 2020 is amazing because there were the strange conditions, of course. 2020’s acidity is just in-between ’18 and ’19, and the alcohol levels and sugar content are a little bit lower than the other years, which makes a very elegant, clean, precise wine – the terroir, the soils, the place all speak very loudly. We had a dry July and August, but while many think the temperature is important, it’s not at all the issue with the vintage. In dry conditions, water only comes from the soil. It does not come from rainfall because there wasn’t any, so climate disappears from the wine’s taste. It is only the soil because the clay the vines are growing in does not react like chalk or sand. The problem is today that while everyone talks about climate change, which is good, it’s only part of our story. The main part here is about soil.

LUX: The way you make champagnes is quite different to many others in Champagne.
Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon: Each one of our 415 parcels has a specific identity and is dedicated to one of our vintage wines. At Louis Roederer we craft the wine right from the farming of the parcel, which includes both vines and vineyard management. The result are ripe grapes customised to our style and fermented or aged in different vessels to keep the specificity of each parcel all through winter and our blending sessions. We do single-vineyard winemaking nine months a year to create the ultimate final blend.

LUX: And how important is what you do after the grapes are picked?
Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon: It is very important in that you need to be super-present. It is a work of jewellery, like that of a Swiss watchmaker. You need to be very precise so as not to lose what you have from the vineyards. This precision is really my motivation, and it makes Cristal a bit different in the world of champagne. I do not want our winemaking to be too prominent. It has to be there, but it has to be completely transparent. My target is really to bring what I get from the grape into the bottle with a lot of care and subtle rebalancing of acidity by using leaves or oak, but I try to stay true to the vintage’s harvest. That is the big difference between Cristal and Dom Pérignon, for example, for whom vintage is less important than maintaining the Dom Pérignon style. We can accept Cristal being a little different each time if truer to the specific vintage. But don’t think we do nothing here – we do a lot. This morning I was smelling a lot of vats and tanks to make decisions about what to do, if we should rack it, if we should aerate it, and so on. We are really proactive, but we mustn’t put too strong an imprint on the wine.

grapes in a barrel

Courtesy of Louis Roederer

LUX: Is Cristal a fine wine like great Burgundy or Bordeaux, or is champagne always going to be ‘other’, somehow different to still wines?
Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon: I believe the secret of champagne is that it’s a serious wine, for sure, but the bubbles make it different. It’s simply more than wine.

LUX: Our readers are wealthy consumers and collectors of wine, not necessarily technical experts in wine. Could you explain to a typical reader of ours what makes Cristal special?
Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon: Cristal is special because the terroirs it comes from are the best in Champagne, and its long-term performance since 1876 has been maintained and showcased year after year, demonstrating the quality of the terroirs and making it the oldest prestige cuvée in Champagne. Historically, Cristal comes from the best location in the region. It is not even the best cru and I am not saying that we have all the best plots, as we are in a neighbourhood with some very beautiful plots. But Cristal has these old, mid-slope vines; the mid-slope is perfect because you get the humidity from the top of the hill and the heat from the bottom. You get eternal softness. It is not extreme like the forest or the valley. When the weather is very hot the mid-slope is cooler, and when it is very cold it is warmer. Cristal is born in a very special place chosen specifically by the house, making it the ideal champagne. So, what can we do best here? Cristal, by the selection of plots, in the way we farm them and in the way we blend the grapes, is all about reaching this ideal of purity and finesse. And, as I was saying earlier, we really have a link to the place, we consider each crop of Cristal as a jewel, and our job is to maintain it to be the brightest and most beautiful as possible. It is precision, haute-couture farming in the choice of material and date of picking, making wines that are elegant yet powerful.

Read more: Brunello Cucinelli on cashmere and humanitarian capitalism

LUX: How does Cristal evolve with age, and what specific biochemical properties allow it to age well?
Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon: Because it is grown on chalky soils, with low yields and picked at good ripeness, Cristal has great acidity, low pH, a high concentration and a dry extract which are great assets for ageing over many decades.

LUX: A lover of Burgundy may be attached to a particular vineyard plot. Yet Cristal, while made from Burgundian grapes, is a blend of many vineyards. How does this work?
Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon: Because Champagne’s climate is more oceanic, so more unstable than Burgundy’s, champagne makers have invented blending of different parcels and villages to reach a better quality every year. It is not about consistency of style, but the best possible quality in a particular vintage. A blend of Cristal is a little bit like the blending of all the grands crus in Burgundy. Imagine making a blend of Corton Charlemagne, Montrachet, Bâtard-Montrachet, Chevalier-Montrachet, La Romanée, La Romanée-Conti, La Romanée-St-Vivant, La Grande Rue, La Tâche, Richebourg, Échezeaux, Grands Échezeaux, Clos de Vougeot, Musigny and Bonnes Mares, with the only condition being that the blend has to be a better wine than each one of them. That’s the way we think about creating Cristal.

LUX: What does sustainability mean to you?
Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon: It means developing the excellence of the quality and identity of our wines, as well as the resilience of the biodiversity and climate of our vineyards’ ecosystems. It means reducing our impact on nature by decreasing our overall footprint by being as restrained as possible in all fields of activity and taking care of employees and consumers. In the end, there is, of course, an economic side as well, but innovation stands at the centre of what we do to make it all happen.

horse working on vineyard

Louis Roederer has 242 hectares of vineyards across the Champagne region, mostly given over to the pinot noir and chardonnay grapes from which all their vintage wines are made. Image courtesy of Louis Roederer

LUX: Specifically, what measures have you taken to counter climate change?
Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon: Since the beginning of life on Earth, the climate has been changing. It’s the essence of farming to adapt production and practices to this constant change. What is changing is the speed of this adaptation. We must focus on developing a strong resilience in our ecosystem so that it can cope in a fast-changing climate. We also need to innovate and try new things. And we need to decrease our carbon footprint to help slow down global warming.

LUX: You switched to organic farming in 2012. What difference has that made?
Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon: Yes, this is unique in champagne. Changing to organic production has delivered us a better conscience. I was talking about jewels and what I want for my jewel are the best farming conditions. I do not want to use pesticides or add things to my soils. It gives me and my team a good conscience to say we do things honestly, and that we do things for the next generation that are free of all excess chemicals. In the wine itself, it has really changed the alcohol/acidity ratio, which was exactly what I wanted it to do. It gives a little more ripeness, a little more strength and richer flavours. At the same time, a higher acidity, or lower pH, gives more freshness. Over the years, we have done much blind testing and we think we have got an extra texture, an extra aroma. Everything is a bit amplified. It has also pushed us to rethink our winemaking. We were fermenting our wines in a way that was traditional to the house, using sulphites and so on, but, thanks to organic farming, we have been able to reduce our sulphites and, in the case of chardonnay, to not use any sulphite at all, because the wines are stronger and they can take it. I think we have more resilient wines in the end, but it is too early to say. I think it will also increase the ageing potential of my wines because there is so much of everything. You know, with wine ageing you start with a potential and you lose a little bit and continue losing until the wine becomes static. But along the way there is a point of beauty where you get maybe less fruit, more texture and aroma, it becomes more complex with different umami flavours. I think we can extend this a little bit. This is nothing new because, in fact, champagne was organic before 1960, so all the champagnes from ’28, ’29, ’47, ’49, ’62 and ’64, were all organic and they aged beautifully. I am more into wanting the wine to last than immediate pleasure, but you need to find a balance and, in this, I am modern and classic at the same time – it has to be delicious, which is modern, but the classic demands that it lasts and be even more beautiful in 40 years. Maybe that is what Cristal really is, modern and classic at the same time.

LUX: Do you think that Cristal, and prestige champagnes in general, are taken more seriously now than they were 20 years ago?
Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon: I think so, yes, and it is accelerating. What I call ‘label drinking’ is becoming less and less important. It still is, of course, but people are much better informed now. Unlike in the past, they want information, to hear what we say about the vineyards and how we make the wine. People are looking for more transparency, more honesty, more values in what they drink over and above just a label. Also, I think there is a very interesting price point, because when you make wine like Cristal, which is at a high level of quality, the price difference is quite big. If you look in the still wine world in France, I can see wine lovers and collectors who are now becoming champagne collectors. That is fantastic. Last but not least, champagne has really shown a lot of modern aspects which came largely from grower communication. In Champagne, it is not just Moët, Pol Roger and Bollinger; there are also small growers who do a great job and present completely different wines, and that is contributing to this exciting moment for champagne.

Read more: Superblue’s experiential art centres & innovative business model

LUX: Is there a typical Cristal drinker/fan/aficionado?
Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon: That’s a good question. I know a few American and Japanese aficionados. They are often collectors of great Burgundy, but I am talking about a small niche of collectors, which is not the main market. We used to sell a lot on the nightlife scene in the 80s and 90s, but not so much anymore. Our main clients for Cristal now are restaurants and private buyers. So, I would say there are more wine lovers in general, but I also think that with Cristal, because it’s elegant and refined, it catches the attention of a lot of people who are not so much wine lovers. I remember a Californian lady telling me, “I just drink Cristal”. I asked what else she drinks, and she said, “Just Cristal, I love Cristal, I drink chardonnay”. It’s funny, because she was speaking about Cristal, but then about chardonnay. I think it shows that she wasn’t very knowledgeable but liked the softness and roundness of chardonnay, and she found this in Cristal with its elegance, lightness, chalkiness and minerality.

LUX: Do you feel that more people are now identifying as champagne connoisseurs?
Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon: I think so. I meet more and more people who want to discover the experience of mature champagnes. It probably has to do with people finally realising the exceptional freshness and ageing potential of Cristal.

LUX: And do you think that, just as there are ‘cru-distes’ who are obsessed with the cru, that there are ‘Cristalists’?
Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon: There are some. I don’t know how many cru lovers there are, nor do I know what their average age would be. I would see some ‘crudistes’ perhaps as older people, and most likely men, too. The old club, let us say. I think Cristal attracts more young people. When we do tastings, we do not want to do it for just the happy few but larger groups, too. In New York, for example, I do some very expensive tastings for the elite and we know them, I go to their place and I drink the wine with them, they are friends. But if we do more of an educational tasting, and if we can invite a few young people who maybe do not have the money but have the strong desire to experience it, I like it. This makes sense for our mission. We make the wine of today and tomorrow, not the wine of yesterday. When I bottle Cristal 2020 next year, it will be consumed on the market in ten years’ time. We need to look at these new generations, they are important, they should inspire us first. Thinking again about the classic tradition and modernity, it is good to find a nice balance between those two worlds, because we need to know where we come from, and we also need to have a vision of where we are going.

vineyards

Cristal 2012 was Roederer’s first vintage produced by fully biodynamic farming methods following several years during which the champagne maker, unique among other houses, gradually converted its vineyards to being organic. Image courtesy of Louis Roederer

LUX: Can Cristal be drunk by itself or should it be accompanied by food?
Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon: It really depends on the Cristal that we are talking about, and it depends on my mood. Sometimes I can enjoy a glass of Cristal by myself and just drink it with no food, nothing, just relaxed. Or it can be matched with food. Roughly speaking, I tend to drink a young Cristal by itself or with seafood, such as crabs or oysters, those kinds of salty, light food that combine well with the acidity and the softness and fruit of Cristal. If I have an older Cristal, then it comes to gastronomy. And technically, with some you can try many things depending on the bottle. I did a tasting yesterday, because we are going to launch our Cristal Vinothèque in October. It is from ’99, so it is a 20-year-old wine. This is a wine to have with veal, with mushrooms, with something fleshy enough to withstand the Cristal. There is less carbon dioxide. I am surprised sometimes, when I am on a journey for instance, and somebody opens a bottle of Cristal with me to be drunk with a food that I would never have dreamed could be eaten alongside champagne. I remember in Hong Kong a few years ago I had some with snake soup, a combination I have never imagined, yet it worked well, it was crunchy.

LUX: Tell us more about the Vinothèque wines. Who are they for?
Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon: Vinothèque is another expression of Cristal with time. It’s more developed but it’s fresher, too. I believe this wine will meet the expectations of Cristal lovers and all lovers of mature Burgundies and riesling. It’s definitely gastronomic. My original idea, when creating Cristal Vinothèque, was that, in our modern world, even wine lovers who don’t have the patience to wait for 20 years before enjoying a bottle of wine, cannot know that in that time their taste may drive them to appreciating mature champagne. So, I planned to keep some bottles to make that experience possible for the impatient ones! In between, I found so many new aspects of ageing in our ‘laboratory of time’ that I have fine-tuned the project into what I have called ‘In Pursuit of Eternal Youth’!

LUX: Are there plans for any other Cristals? Single-grape or single-vineyard?
Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon: Yes, we have some ideas. I have many triumphs in the cellar, where we are trying to do different things. Cristal stays what it is with the terroir and so on. Cristal is also pinot noir-dominated so it will always be a blend. We could not do a Cristal Vin de Blanc, or Cristal Vin de Noir. I don’t see the logic behind doing that or see it as being true to Cristal. We can work on different aging. If you want to play with pure chardonnay, we can create it. I have plenty of vineyards and we are planning to do something with them in the year ahead.

LUX: How did you cope during the pandemic?
Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon: We didn’t stop. I kept working in the vineyards and the cellar. We put the marketing and the commercial teams in the vineyards. Everyone was part of the harvest. There is a team spirit at the moment. Today, we are experiencing a great moment, aside from Covid-19, something positive that we have never done before. But now we want our life back, to travel again, go to the markets, to Japan, the US, where we have vineyards. We have to start living with the virus and keep going.

LUX: What do you enjoy most in your job?
Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon: I like to be out there, in the vineyards, working hand in hand with nature, observing and taking the best from it to create something ultra-civilised. It’s all about transforming raw material into ultimate beauty and emotions. And it is important to me to know that the wine I create today will definitely survive me!

champagne bottle

Cristal 2012. Image by Emmanuel Allaire

“Six Vintages that express Cristal in all its glory” – Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon’s picks

2012: “After 20 years of exploration, research and conversion, the Cristal estate is fully biodynamic from the 2012 vintage onwards”
2008: “A legendary vintage, the ‘Cristal of Cristals’ ”
1999: “My first vintage as chef de cave”
1993: “This really showcases how good Cristal can be in a difficult vintage and how selecting the best plots from the 45 grand cru plots that comprise the Cristal estate each year is vital. The decision is dictated by the vintage conditions, so working hand in hand with nature, listening and observing is crucial”
1989: “A hot, ripe year but still with the tension and salinity that is the signature of Cristal, which comes from the terroir”
1988: “A cooler year that has developed well with a total contrast of style”

“These last two vintages show how much the region’s climate can vary from one year to the next with a clear impact on the style of the wine. The challenge is to make great wines from both.”

Find out more: louis-roederer.com

This interview was originally published in the Summer 2021 issue.

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a horse in a vineyard
a horse in a vineyard
Cristal is the champagne of champagnes, and the new vintage is both brilliant and biodynamic. Give yourself a home-made health cure by buying and sampling, says Darius Sanai

Beetroot Kombucha. Acai beaker with a shot of charcoal. Turmeric, aloe vera and spinach booster shot. To these health drinks, we can add another: Cristal 2013.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

Cristal, as you all know, is the creme de la creme of Louis Roederer champagnes, made in a clear crystalline bottle, as famously favoured by Tsar Nicholas II before he graciously made way for 70 years of communism and prudishness. The bottle comes with its own UV-protective wrap (UV light is the enemy not only of your face on that yacht in Mustique, but of champagne) and in a presentation box; and probably unlike all the ingredients in those health juices, it is 100% biodynamic and organic.

bottle of champagne

Cristal 2013. Image by Emmanuel Allaire

Short of joining Elon Musk on Mars, there is no better way of looking after the soil than farming biodynamically. Not only are all pesticides banned as they are in organic farms; biodiversity is positively encouraged in Roederer’s biodynamic vineyards. Bugs and minibeasts roam free. Vineyards are ploughed by horse and fertilised by, ah, natural horse fertiliser. “It brings us close to the soil,” says winemaker Jean-Baptiste Lecaillon. Can the same be said of the spinach farms producing your green juice?

We were sent a bottle of this new release to taste. Rich and feather-light at the same time, it grows and grows as you taste it and is probably best sampled with a lightly sauced, line-caught sea bream at, say, Oswald’s. Cristal at best is a wine that improves for decades; and 2013 is Cristal at best, according to Lecaillion: “The Cristal of Cristals. It will age beautifully.” As long as you avoid being overthrown by some cultural revolutionaries in the interim.

Find out more: louis-roederer.com

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luxurious restaurant interiors
Chefs wearing masks

Novikov 2 Go is a new service from the innovative Mayfair restaurant, offering tasting menus cooked, packaged and delivered to your door.

Novikov, the famed Mayfair restaurant, is now offering perfectly prepared cuisine from its Asian and Italian kitchens, delivered to your London home. Our Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai had to check it out

Your chef and brigade are back with you, thank goodness, being tested every day after a trying time in isolation during lockdown during which you had to try to fend for yourself.

But while her involtini di salmone con senape e marscapone is as divine as ever, you are missing the innovation, the intricacy, not to mention the vibe, of your favourite go-to restaurants.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

Enter Novikov 2 Go. A new service from the modern-legendary Mayfair restaurant, this involves the chefs creating a tasting menu of up to 15 dishes for you, your loved ones, and the guests you are inviting to sit in your garden (suitably physically distanced) and delivering it cooked, packaged, and ready to serve, at the time of your choosing.

luxurious restaurant interiors

Sliced steak

Above: The Italian restaurant at Novikov in Mayfair and below, Italian tagliata with rocket salad and Parmesan

We have been fans of Novikov ever since Russian dining maestro Arkady Novikov, who owns the Vogue café and Tatler Club in Moscow, came over to Mayfair to open this huge, innovative space containing an Asian restaurant, Italian restaurant, and a bar. It should not, perhaps, have worked, but the place is packed (or rather, it was when it was allowed to open) simply due to the quality of its food, as well as its vibe.

We had to try out Novikov 2 Go.

We placed our order, mentioning that we were slightly more biased towards seafood than red meat, sat back, and let it happen. At the appointed time, a black cab rolled up outside with eight Novikov branded paper bags, containing an array of packages and boxes. The food was steaming hot. (It helps if you live near the restaurant).

asian restaurant interiors

Asian salad

Above: the Asian resturant and below, Novikov’s crab apple salad with wasabi dressing

Image by @sheherazade_photography

A beautifully presented menu, printed for each guest, explained what we were getting. Starters included the Novikov duck salad, a crab and avocado salad, salmon tartare with yoghurt dressing (which came, like all the dressings, clearly marked in separate containers so you could add them just before eating), and ultra-creamy burrata with Sicilian datterino tomatoes.

Read more: How ionic cars are transforming classic cars for an electric future

The next course skipped into Asia: delicate hamachi yuzu truffle maki, and scallop jalapeño Maki with a sting in the tail. (Plenty of soya sauce and wasabi was provided). These went particularly well with the icy bottle of Louis Roederer Brut Premier (a classy champagne for a classy meal) that came with the meal in its own white cooler bag.

An unexpected treat was Novikov’s signature pizza with black truffle, fior di latte and soft cheeses (a COVID kilo in one go). The miso baby chicken, which I had not tried before, was the highlight of the meal, rich and detailed; and the miso black cod was like welcoming an old friend, together with its signature bamboo leaf.

red prawns

Novikov’s Italian Sicilian red prawns

Old favourite accompaniments were also there: grilled asparagus skewers with an umami sauce on the side, sauteed spinach, excellent egg fried rice and Singapore noodles that were light, bright and full of flavour.

We didn’t have space for the desserts and kept them for the next day. Ok, the Rocher XL, a giant ice cream and extremely rich dark chocolate ice cream and nut coated Ferrero Rocher ball, was devoured, but the hazelnut profiteroles, Tiramisu and Panna Cotta just had to wait.

Was it as good as going to Novikov? In some ways, it was even better. We had cuisine from both restaurants at once, something you can’t do there; we didn’t have to leave our home, and we were sitting in the garden. It was like having the chefs and all their ingredients turn up at your home, but with zero disruption, and served exactly when we wanted.

This could become habit-forming.

Novikov to Go delivers to selected address in London. Private jet orders can be delivered direct to the runway. For deliveries, customers will need to email [email protected] or call 020 7399 4330. To view the menu visit: bbot.menu/novikov2go

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Stainglass windows lining a corridor
Portrait of a man against a white background

French designer Philippe Starck. Image by JB Mondino.

Legendary French designer Philippe Starck gives Mark C. O’Flaherty his radical vision of the future: a time when designers won’t be needed – and maybe even chairs

“I’m not interested in aesthetics anymore,” says Philippe Starck, sipping on a glass of mineral water in the Royal Academy in London. “I am interested only in our evolution, and how the intelligent craft of human production is going to be rerun by dematerialisation. We are working on making things disappear.” As Starck speaks, I notice the periodic flashing of a red LED from beneath the skin on a fingertip of his left hand. It’s extraordinary. I ask him what it does – is it connected somehow to his laptop, perhaps? “Ah, it’s magic!” he says, cryptically, before steering the conversation to his ongoing project with the Roederer champagne house: “I never wanted to just design a bottle, I wanted to share in the making of what was inside. And it was about creating something that had less in it, nothing added, no sugar.”

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We are at the Royal Academy for the launch of the new Roederer-Starck 2012 rosé champagne, where he is judging a competition between 13 artists at the Academy’s Schools to interpret the taste of the champagne through their art. His choice of winner – a white-on-white embossed spiral on paper called Cycles, by Sofía Clausse – is apposite for his ongoing philosophy of design: “It was the most accessible piece,” he says, “It was simple. It captured the spirit of champagne, which to me isn’t a wine, or a reality, but an idea.”

Contemporary plastic chair against white background

Starck’s AI Chair for Kartell

When the world first caught sight of Philippe Starck’s work in the 1980s, the Parisian-born designer had been creating products for a new way of living. He was changing the vocabulary of interiors, rephrasing the language with futuristic accents on everyday items. His choice of materials was aggressively different from the tradition of French design – he selected transparent plastics, metallics and pop colours. He was as New Wave as the cinema of Luc Besson and Jean-Jacques Beineix and of the architecture of Jean Nouvel. Today, at 70, he is one of the most prolific designers who has ever lived, having created literally (his studio can offer no official number) countless products from clocks to yachts. Today, he still works on an average of 200 projects a year. And yet, as he tells me, he believes that “fifteen years from now, thanks to technology, every material obligation will have disappeared.”

Read more: Chaumet’s CEO Jean-Marc Mansvelt on historic innovations

How does a designer who has been apocryphally credited with 10,000 products balance his current view of a future with nothing in it, with his business model? “The business element will shift,” he says. “We debuted the AI chair with Kartell at Salone del Mobile in Milan this year, and it was the first of its kind ever to be created with artificial intelligence. AI is going to create a new freedom in design. With AI, we can now ask any question, but it’s all about knowing the right question.” He also sees a time beyond furniture. “Design as we know it will be dead,” he says. “There will be better solutions to sitting down than a chair. I think a chair has always put you physically in a bad position. We can do better than a chair.”

Stainglass windows lining a corridor

The entrance to the Starck-designed L’Avenue restaurant at Saks Fifth Avenue, New York, with stained glass by his daughter Ara

Starck has always been radical. In 1984 he created the interior for Café Costes in Les Halles. With its theatrical blue staircase and oversized minimal clock, it was as much a postmodern landmark leisure-time interior as Ben Kelly’s Haçienda in Manchester, and Arata Isozaki’s Palladium in New York City. All were created in the same decade, but Starck’s project was notably more dramatic because of its location. This was Paris, a city still stuck in Belle Époque aspic. French design was frozen in curlicues and froth. Starck was an iconoclast.

Contemporary artwork hanging on wall

Photograph of wine glasses

Entries to the Brut Nature competition from Royal Academy students, with (top) The Philosophers’ Reserve by Max Prus, and (here) Tidally locked by Olu Ogunnaike

After a series of successful Paris interiors, he was aligned for a long period with Ian Schrager’s fantastical hotel projects, bringing some of the eccentric visual flair that Schrager and his late business partner Steve Rubell brought to Manhattan nightlife with Studio 54. There was a fairytale, supersized element to much of what he did, from elevated swimming pools to triple-height billowing curtains. From the Royalton in Times Square in 1988 onwards, their partnership helped take Starck’s name and distinctive, witty style to the world.

Read more: Founder of Nila House Lady Carole Bamford’s guide to Jaipur

While his peers, including Marc Newson – who currently holds the record for a design object at auction after one of his Lockheed Lounge chairs sold for over £2 million in 2015 – focused on rarefied edition pieces, Starck focused on mass production. A rare blue glass Illusion Table sold for $50,000 a decade ago, but Starck is known more for his alien-looking Juicy Salif lemon squeezer – which first appeared in 1990 – and continues to be one of Alessi’s best-selling products of all time. At one point, the company produced 10,000 gold-plated versions, purely for display in the home (lemon juice discolours the surface). His transparent plastic chairs for Kartell – the La Marie, which launched in 1999, and the Louis Ghost armchair, which debuted three years later – are as instantly recognisable as any piece of furniture ever made. They brought avant-garde design to the mass market. But when plastics are being demonised, do his polycarbonate objects belong to the past? Starck remains a passionate cheerleader for the material. “For me, it’s the only way to achieve the quality product I want,” he says. “There is a great difference between single-use plastic and a chair that you can keep for a century or more. The media has created great confusion. I prefer to work with fossil energy than to cut down trees and I would rather use vinyl for upholstery than kill cows.”

Woman spitting fountain of water against black background

Artwork etching with mulitcolours

Two further entries from Royal Academy of Arts students to the inaugural Brut Nature competition judged by Philippe Starck, with (top) Self-portrait as a Champagne Fountain (2019) by Clara Halstrup and (here) Sun on the coast of the moon by Richie Moment

One area in which he, and indeed most of us, remain guilty in terms of the unfolding climate crisis is in carbon emissions from flying. But Starck is one of the busiest designers on the planet, and for someone who still uses pen and paper and tactile models to create (“If you create using a computer, you are just creating within the frame of the guy who created the software!”), he needs to appear in person for projects. The day after we meet, he has to get up at 4am to catch a plane to Milan where he’ll be for a few hours before flying off again, heading further south. “It’s fine – I am so used to it,” he shrugs. “I once went to Seoul from Paris for three hours.” At 70, he shows no signs of slowing down, but when he takes time out, it’s the most understated resort he has ever designed that he likes to head to. “I like lots of places I have been involved with,” he says, “but the one I really love is La Co(o)rniche in the Bay of Arcachon near Bordeaux. It’s really just a few cabanas on top of the Dune de Pilat, the highest sand dune in Europe. You are there looking at the waves and the sunset and it feels like the best place in the world.”

The choice of a fairly rustic, nay, Zen destination ties in with his world view right now, and his intention to both continue democratising design and make it vanish. Just as he believes the future is chair-free, so he believes our everyday tools and indeed all of our furniture will go. “Designers won’t dictate the aesthetic in the future,” he says, “it will be down to your coach and dietician, because telephones and computers will disappear and everything we use will be incorporated within the body. We will be naked in an empty room, and we will be able to conjure flowers or whatever we want from nothing.” As Starck gesticulates, the red LED flashes on his finger tip again. “So, come on, tell me…,” I ask, “is that part of the new cyborg tech you are talking about?” He smiles. “Oh, this? I got it from the Harrods toy department. Fun isn’t it!?”

Louis Roederer and Philippe Starck

Champagne bottle and caseThe recent launch of the 2012 Roederer and Starck rosé champagne marks 13 years of the designer’s collaboration with the French family-owned champagne house and maker of Cristal. Starck has been involved in each step of the production, including, of course, the champagne’s packaging. From the first brut-nature product in 2006, the champagne has been created sugar-free, with zero dosage. As Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon, Roederer’s chef de cave  says: “We have used nature as our collaborator as much as anything with our work with Philippe – it is organic, with minimal intervention and a focus on the real taste of champagne. This came from our discussions with him.” The presentation attempts to democratise the luxury product – it looks more like a chic bottle of olive oil than a grand cru. The hand-lettering on the label and box and the rough line of fluorescent pen creating the edging makes it look effortless. As Frédéric Rouzaud, president and family scion of Louis Roederer says: “It represents spontaneity. He wanted a simple paper for the label, and just wrote by hand what the product is. He wanted it to be approachable, to speak to everyone.”

Find out more: louis-roederer.com & starck.com

This article was originally published in the Spring 2020 Issue.

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People admiring artworks in a gallery
People admiring artworks in a gallery

Guests admiring the shortlisted artworks on display in the RA’s life-drawing room

The launch event of Louis Roederer’s Brut Nature 2012 saw twelve students from the Royal Academy of Arts artistically interpret the new zero-dosage cuvée. Here, we recall the evening

Bottles of champagne and a glassEarlier this month, champagne house Louis Roederer and renowned French designer Philippe Starck presented the inaugural Brut Nature prize at London’s Royal Academy of Arts, which invited young artists to interpret the brand’s new zero-dosage release through their choice of artistic medium.

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The evening was hosted by Starck, Louis Roederer’s CEO Frédéric Rouzaud and chef de caves Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon, who announced Argentinian artist Sofía Clausse as this year’s winner for her work on paper Cycles. The artwork – an endless, growing spiral, cut from paper and rolled through a press to create an embossed effect – was made in response to the processes and style of the Champagne Brut Nature, and displayed in the RA’s life-drawing room alongside the eleven other shortlisted artists.

Girl holding trophy and bottle of champagne

Winner Sofía Clausse (standing next to her artwork Cycles) was presented with a case of Brut Nature, £3000, and a visit to Louis Roederer in Champagne

Clara Hastrup‘s artwork Self-portrait as a Champagne Fountain and Olu Ogunnaike‘s Tidally Locked also received special mentions for their unique and surprising interpretations.

For more information visit: louis-roederer.com

 

 

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Louis Roederer International Wine Awards
Louis Roederer International Wine Awards

The 15th edition of the Louis Roederer International Wine Writers’ Awards took place at the Royal Academy of Arts, London

Last week, the 15th edition of the annual Louis Roederer International Wine Writers’ Awards took place at The Royal Academy of Arts in Mayfair. Chloe Frost-Smith recounts the evening

Bottle of champagne being poured into a glassWine experts and distinguished guests sipped glasses of Louis Roederer Brut Premier NV champagne, admiring an exhibition of works from the Artistry of Wine Award shortlist against the backdrop of a full-sized copy of Leonardo da Vinci’s mural painting The Last Supper and the Royal Academy‘s collection of Greek and Roman sculptures.

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The winners were announced in the amphitheatre that forms part of the RA’s remodelled wing, and prizes were presented by Charles Metcalfe, the Chairman of the Judges and award-winning wine author. This year, more than 200 entries were received from writers from 23 countries. Karen MacNeil, a regular contributor to the likes of Decanter, won the new award for Consumer Title Writer of the Year, which recognises wine writing beyond specialist titles. Photographer Leif Carlsson was awarded the Louis Roederer Artistry of Wine, Malu Lambert was named the Montblanc Emerging Wine Writer of the Year and Andrea Frost won the Marchesi Mazzei Wine Columnist of the Year.

Grand staircase and archway of a museum building

Read more: Richard Mille’s Alpine athletes Alexis Pinturault & Ester Ledecká

Esther Mobley of the San Francisco Chronicle was named the Domaines Ott* Wine Feature Writer of the Year and Simon Woolf received the Domaine Faiveley Wine Book of the Year for Amber Revolution, while US wine importer and writer Terry Theise won the Chairman’s Award for his book What Makes a Wine Worth Drinking.

The evening concluded with an informal tasting session in the RA’s Collection Room, allowing guests the opportunity to experience each sponsor’s sommelier selection in the most sophisticated of atmospheres.

To view the full 2019 shortlist visit: theroedererawards.com

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Vineyards pictured at night with orange sky
A woman jumping in a vineyard with a basket full of grapes

“I worked in nature as if it was in the studio. The vineyards seemed to me a very poetical, mysterious and playful environment.” – Marie Benattar

Louis Roederer makes what might just be the world’s most famous champagne, Cristal, and a range of others all renowned for their sophistication and complexity. Less known is the family-owned company’s visionary art foundation, and foray into the luxury boutique hotel industry. Darius Sanai speaks to CEO and 7th-generation family scion, Frédéric Rouzaud, about photography,
art, hospitality, and almost everything except champagne
Man in a suit and glasses standing in a hotel

Frédéric Rouzaud

Travelling from the heart of London to the heart of Paris is, in some ways, like stepping from one luxury universe into another. In Mayfair, every conversation is about money – what’s for sale, what’s being sold, who might buy what. A brand is a currency, there to have its value inflated and sold on to the next wheeler-dealer.

Paris may be the home of the global luxury industry, but despite this, or perhaps because of it, it is – mostly – not considered appropriate to have the same conversations. For every private equity group buying and selling companies like card sharps distributing aces, there is a celebrated company (don’t call them brands) that has been in family hands for centuries.

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This is one of the first thoughts that flows through my head when I meet Frédéric Rouzaud in a hotel lobby in the chi-chi 16th arrondissement. Through the Maison Louis Roederer, Rouzaud may be the family owner and CEO of one of the world’s most celebrated luxury brands – who doesn’t know Cristal, after all – but it’s apparent that this thoughtful, understated and gently smiling gentleman in a dapper suit is a different breed to many modern CEOs. Louis Roederer is a Maison, not a brand.

Photography by Michel Slomka

We settle in quickly to an easy conversation about art, and in particular photography. Recently, Louis Roederer invited young abstract artistic photographers to create images of the champagne house, its cellars and grounds, giving them carte blanche to interpret whatever they wished, however they wanted.

The results, which have never been publicly exhibited, are published on these pages. But Rouzaud, who expresses an enthusiasm for photography and 20th and 21st century art, is doing so much more in the world of art through the Fondation Louis Roederer (a private foundation), and has a plan to develop a collection of luxury boutique hotels. Here is a polymath who is plainly not interested in being pigeonholed. And, of course, the Louis Roederer brand owns several wine estates and makes some of the world’s most celebrated champagnes – not just Cristal, which needs little introduction – including a personal favourite, the complex yet ethereal blanc de blancs.

Abstract photography of women in white dresses

“I found in champagne perfect elements related to dreams… it appears as a perfect opportunity to explore a fairy direction.” – Marie Benattar

LUX: Tell us more about your hotel projects?
Frédéric Rouzaud: We bought our first hotel last November, in the Alps in France. A hotel seems far away from the wine world, but not so far when you look for a long-term strategy that you need to have for hotels. Like for wine, it’s about the French ‘art de vivre’. It’s about gastronomy, the experience and wine. My idea is to create a small boutique hotel collection, and also by having some private houses open to private consumers who would like to live a very nice experience around wine in our different properties. [Outside of Champagne] we have wine properties in Provence, Portugal, two châteaux in Bordeaux, one in California. The idea is to create a small collection either by buying hotels like we did in the Alps or by creating some hotels within our winery sites, which are generally very nice places to stay.

Read more: Wes Anderson & Juman Malouf curate an exhibition at Fondazione Prada

LUX: Will there be a particular aesthetic?
Frédéric Rouzaud: We will try to make people feel comfortable and at home. We will work with some designers that have this sense of conviviality, [to create] a nice experience. We will adapt to each place – the style, the sense of the place. It will be a five-star hotel that is casual and comfortable, family friendly.

Vineyards photographed at night

“I worked at night by the light of the moon. I have aspired to build mirage images in order to reveal what can not be mastered by man, the very power of nature. The artificial lights were developed to unmask ghostly presences, unreal scenes, dreamlike horizons.” – Lucie Jean

LUX: There is a very powerful partnership between your Maison and the art world. The photography for the prize that you do is very abstract. Is that something you initiated yourself and how has it grown?
Frédéric Rouzaud: The story started 20 years ago, when we met the president of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France. They have a fantastic collection of more than five million images – old photographs from the beginning of the creation of the photography – but they didn’t know what to do with it because they are more book-orientated. So they asked us if we would be interested in helping them show the fantastic collection to the public. That is how we started our collaboration, and we did a lot of very nice and interesting exhibitions there. We sponsor all of the exhibitions and they are fantastic. It is a very serious, rigorous and interesting collection of photography with plenty of artists.

Aerial image of a woman sitting on curved steps

“Views from above of the symbolic interiors of Roederer were completed with images of starry skies from the vineyards. This face- to-face seemed to us to be a poetic metaphor for what champagne represents, a kind of cosmic union between earth and sky.” – Simon Brodbeck and Lucie de Barbuat.

LUX: What about the young photographers we feature here?
Frédéric Rouzaud: We asked the Bibliothèque Nationale de France to select for us eight or ten young photographers who went to Champagne; there was lots of creativity and they decided to photograph Roederer as their own perception.

LUX: What did you think of what they did?
Frédéric Rouzaud: I think it was great. I think it was so different and their approach was phenomenal.

LUX: You must have a personal passion for photography to give it such support?
Frédéric Rouzaud: I am interested by art and photography – because photography is really a contemporary art form. I think it is approachable for people who sometimes do not understand or find it difficult to approach contemporary art. Photography is always approachable, understandable… and I see a big future, a big potential for photography. It is a very nice, aesthetic art.

Vineyards pictured at night with orange sky

“The intervention of man gives a very graphic aspect to the vines. I sought, through the strength of this vegetation and nature,
visual haikus which would plunge us between the lines from what is immediately visible.” – Lucie Jean

LUX: Do you collect photography yourself ?
Frédéric Rouzaud: I have some, I don’t only collect photography – I collect many things. I buy lots of intuition and inspiration (laughs). I am not a collector in the sense that I buy everything, I am more for going into galleries on the weekends/ auction sales to see what is going on – I can buy photography, a chair, a lamp…

Read more: Geoffrey Kent on travelling beyond the beaten track

LUX: Does your foundation have a physical home that people can visit?
Frédéric Rouzaud: No, not yet. The purpose of the foundation is to help institutions and museums like Palais de Tokyo and Le Grand Palais to show to the public their fantastic collections. I think we are much more for that approach rather than to say, ‘Hey, look at my foundation, look at my collection, come and visit it.’ We are a small company, we are more for helping the French big institutions, like Bibliothèque Nationale, trying to choose the artists that really talk to us in a way – that is the first point. The second point is the different prizes that we have created now; we like to discover new talents. That is really the two things helping the institution with known artists – because there are lots of artists who we have sponsored who were known, but we also like to give prizes to new talents.

Dark image of a woman in the night picking grapes

“For me, photography is a way to discover and observe the world, to embrace its complexity without feeling too much gravity. It is also a way to take time, spend it and even try to stop it.” – Marie Benattar

LUX: Is the private sector becoming more important in supporting art?
Frédéric Rouzaud: Museums don’t always have the means to do these exhibitions for the public so they seem very happy to have that kind of foundation to help. I think it is very important, yes. Even if in France it is less usual to have funds from a private company or foundation like it is in the UK, it is very normal. But I think it is coming and definitely there are never enough funds to help art. If the approach is quiet, organised, long-term and focused on what we like, I think there is no reason that it doesn’t work, because again in our approach we are more behind museums that have the savoir faire, the connection. We prefer to be maybe a little bit behind the scenes.

LUX: Are wine and art similar?
Frédéric Rouzaud: Of course, there is a link. But I always say to my team, ‘Don’t consider yourselves artists. We are not artists. We are artisans, dedicated to nature, trying to interpret each year what nature likes to give us: climate, size of grapes, concentration…’ And we try to make, modestly, with that, a wine that we sell. Artists have total freedom. We don’t. We have to ferment the wine, we have to press the wine, it has to be vigorous. It’s close to the artists’ work – but we don’t have the freedom. The only thing you have to do as an artist is express what you have in your head. So there is a very natural link between the world of wine and the world of art, but we are not artists.

Portrait of a woman standing in front of a pink wall

“The need and the desire to create cannot be explained. It’s like a breath, a small voice and sometimes even a cry that animates you and takes you to creation.” – Laura Bonnefous

LUX: Is it true to say the world of wine is more objective than art?
Frédéric Rouzaud: Yes, in the world of wine we have to follow rules, some tools, some gestures. In art, you do what you want – you are much more free. We are free in the way that we are free to search the best soils to plant the vineyards, we are free to search the best way for pruning the vineyards, the way of fine-tuning our grapes, our methods, our pressing process, our fermentation, our storage – we are free for that. But at the end of the day, the focus has to be a bottle of wine that is appreciated by the consumers. An artist, if he makes something and it pleases collectors, it is good. If it doesn’t please them, it is fine also!

Read more: Spring Studios’ Founder Francesco Costa on building a creative network

LUX: With wine, is the product the most important thing? Or the brand?
Frédéric Rouzaud: (Laughs) The brand comes after the product, in our approach. We do small quantities, small production in our own vineyards. We don’t buy grapes, we don’t buy wine, so it is a small production and we produce a small quantity of wine – not enough for the world and we are fine with that, because we don’t know how to do more at that level of quality. For us the brand is more a Maison; it is a family-owned company and we make a product the best way we can and if it becomes a brand, fine! But we are not trying to make a brand and then make the product. We were founded in 1776 and my brothers and sisters have done a great job to make a brand today – called Roederer – but still the team is really not in that approach of branding. We are really behind our product, behind our vineyards.

Men throwing buckets in vineyards

“A Cristal bottle is transparent; I tried to make the production process transparent by highlighting the talented people working in the vineyard, the cellars, the factory, the office…” – Sandra Reinflet

LUX: Tell us why you chose Val-d’Isère for your first hotel?
Frédéric Rouzaud: Why Val-d’Isère? This resort in terms of value, authenticity, purity of skiing… it really is the resort in France, if you like to ski. I like to ski and I have been to lots of resorts in France. After testing Val-d’Isère you will be disappointed if you go elsewhere – if you like to ski. Plus the fact that it is a historic hotel, one of the first of the resort, and it belonged to a family – the same family who built the hotel.

LUX: How important is China for you?
Frédéric Rouzaud: It is small yet. We are very strong in Hong Kong, but China is quite small at the moment. First, we do not have the volume. Second, the market is very young. Sometimes champagne is considered as goods which should be offered for parties. I don’t know why – champagne as a commodity. In an emerging market like that you have to sponsor a lot if you want to be in some places and we are not in this game, because we do not have the volume. We have such a respect for the wine itself that we don’t like to give it for free. We only do it sometimes, as a special prize.

LUX: We were talking about biodynamics…
Frédéric Rouzaud: We are running the Cristal estate in Champagne, 100% biodynamically, it has been ten years now so we are very happy with it. I am not a technician, but I have tastes; the grapes and maturities, the balance of the grapes concentration, acidity, level of alcohol – and it is working very well.

LUX: What difference does it make to the products when you make it biodynamically?
Frédéric Rouzaud: It is difficult to express but I think it gives it more vibrancy, more life in the wine.

Find out more: louis-roederer.com

This article was originally published in the Autumn 19 Issue

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