The flagship cuvée of Louis Roederer Cristal Champagne is one of the most prestigious and famous wines in the world. A symbol for exclusivity and luxury, it is iconic and highly so. But what exactly makes it so special.
A Unique Royal Conception:
Cristal was created in 1876 for Alexander II, tsar of Russia, who wanted a wine that was exclusive and distinctive. He asked Louis Roederer to reserve the best cuvée for him every year, and to present it in a transparent lead-crystal bottle. Legend has it so that any poison or booby traps in the bottle could be spotted. This special bottle gave the wine its name.
A Champagne of World Class Quality:
While famous for being popular in nightclubs and bars across the planet, Cristal is a Champagne of tremendous quality and gravitas. that makes it also appeal to collectors and connoisseurs.
It is made only from the finest grapes, selected from the best vineyards to which Roederer has access in the Montagne de Reims, the Vallée de la Marne and the Côte des Blancs. It is a blend of about 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay, with a small percentage of Pinot Meunier sometimes added.
To ensure quality, the grapes are harvested by hand and gently pressed. This means that only the most pristine and pure juice is used. Cristal is aged for at least six years in the cellars, and then for another eight months after before being released to ensure a degree of complexity and balance even on release. To drink it young, however, means to miss out on Cristal at its magnificent best and this usually requires plenty of bottle age.
The Style of Cristal Champagne:
Cristal is a Champagne of depth and sophistication, combining power and delicacy, subtlety, and precision. Fine bubbles and a persistent mousse reveal a palate that is rich and complex, with a silky texture and a refreshing acidity. The wine has a remarkable balance and harmony, with a long and elegant finish that reveals notes of minerality and spice.
Cristal is a Champagne often enjoyed young. However, it is a wine that can be aged for decades without losing its freshness. It will also develop more nuances and depth. Those lucky enough to find or own aged Cristal are in for something very special.
The Great Vintages of Cristal Champagne:
As a vintage Champagne (made from the grapes from only one year), Cristal is designed as a reflection of each unique harvest. It is only made when the year is deemed to be good enough, thereby ensuring consistency across releases. Some vintages are, however, better than others and really stand out as special.
1982 – A superb Champagne vintage responsible for a sublime Cristal. Antonio Galloni last tasted this in 2018 and called it “One of my all time favourites”. Sadly, it’s now virtually impossible to find. So, if you come across a well stored bottle at a reasonable price, don’t hesitate.
1990 – Another top Champagne year and another great one for Cristal. For Galloni, this is “remarkable” and will drink until at least 2038. Astonishing.
1996 – Consistently rated in the upper 90s by Galloni, this “captures all the best qualities of the vintage”. Given how good 1996 was for Champange, this is high praise indeed.
2002 – With a rare (for a Champagne) 100-point score from Galloni this is not just one of the finest examples of Cristal, but also one of the best Champagnes ever made. Don’t miss it if you can find it and drink between not and 2042.
2008 – The other magnificent Champagne vintage of the early 2000s. For Galloni, this is worthy of 99 points. To him, it is “one of the most complete, most dazzling Champagnes I have ever tasted”.
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