Louis Roederer’s prestige cuvée was first produced in 1876 for a particular client of the Maison—Alexander II, Tzar of Russia.
Arguably the first prestige cuvée, the story goes that Tzar Alexander II wanted to see the bubbles in the bottle and make sure there were no explosives hidden therein. In order to make a clear glass bottle that could withstand the pressure of the wine, the glassblower flattened the bottom. Or, was that so enterprising assassins couldn’t hide their explosives under the punt? Who is to say? No matter. Today, the threats are more celestial (though less dramatic), which explains the loud orange cellophane wrap—this is actually anti-UV protection.
For the uninitiated, Cristal may seem like ‘water for Oligarchs’ but the wine itself is, quite simply, sublime. It ranks amongst the world’s great wine tasting experiences and, by comparison to the ‘haut vins’ of Bordeaux and Burgundy, is still relatively affordable and accessible.
Roughly a half/half blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, the fruit from the very best vines in Co^te des Blancs, Montagne de Reims, and the Vallée de la Marne. The vine age is 25 years at a minimum while some are as old as 60 years. Low yielding, remarkably, Louis Roederer's vineyards are mostly farmed biodynamic.
Slightly oxidative and reductive in style, Cristal is built not just to age or to last, but to improve. Older vintages still show remarkable freshness. Notes on tasting tend to start at the top of a pyramid of complexity. So when a note of citrus is detected, further scrutiny will reveal juice, pith and/or zest of lemons, grapefruit, lime and/or orange (though the last might be suggested by the colour of the cellophane). Fruits and toast on the nose, richness and creamy honeyed characters on the palate.
From the 2012 vintage, Cristal is produced with 100% biodynamic fruit.
Cristal is the Champagne of Champagne.
"The 2012 Cristal is another absolutely stellar wine this flight of recent releases. Rich, vinous and beautifully textured, the 2012 has been nothing short of magnificent on the three occasions I have tasted it so far. In the glass, the 2012 is radiant and luscious, yet it possesses remarkable transparency and striking aromatic depth. Light tropical notes develop in the glass, giving the 2012 a real feeling of exotic beauty. The 2012 is the first vintage of Cristal done with 100% organically-farmed fruit, an approach introduced gradually starting with the 2007 that has profoundly changes Cristal, especially in its aromatic breadth. Two thousand twelve is the vintage where endless trials and experiments in farming and winemaking are fully realized. The 2012 is just stunning. It’s as simple as that. Dosage is just over 7 grams per liter, the lowest it has even been for Cristal."
98 points, Vinous (December 2019)
"Such attractive, fresh, floral aromas here with fine bread, hints of white almonds and a lemon edge. White cherries and strong, chalky minerals, too. The palate has a very composed feel. Seamless and quite silky texture with effortless length and flow. Very fluid and composed. Very late, warming almond flavors. This is very long and smooth with a velvety finish. Super long pinot weight. Resolved and drinkable, but will age so well."
98 points, JamesSuckling.com (December 2019)
"Aromas of clear honey, crisp green orchard fruit, white peach, pastry cream and dried white flowers introduce the 2012 Cristal, a full-bodied, concentrated and powerful wine that's built for the cellar. Broader, more textural and more muscular than the 2008 Cristal, with seemingly even greater reserves of structuring dry extract, the 2012 is incisive and searingly chalky. This is the first Cristal produced exclusively from organically farmed fruit, and it marks the opening of a new chapter for Louis Roderer. The blend is 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay, vinified without malolactic fermentation and disgorged with 7.5 grams per liter dosage. Chef de Caves Jean-Baptiste Lecaillon has once again excelled himself."
97+ points, Wine Advocate (December 2019)
"Rich and ripe, like 2002. Pungent nose – straight up the nose. Gorgeous and seductive. Complex and embroidered. Already lovely. The next chapter – all viticulture."
19 points, JancisRobinson.com (June 2019)
"A superb wine, very much in the expected style and quality. There's fabulous complexity on nose and palate, incorporating some smoky sulfide notes and notes of egg-custard, the palate texture refined and subtle, soft and harmonious. (70% pinot noir, 30% chardonnay; 8% fermented in oak casks; dosage 9 grams/litre)"
95 points, The Real Review (June 2019)
The rise and rise of Cristal over recent decades has been something to behold, and the ever more fanatical approach of Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon and his team has crafted a style that articulates its terroirs and seasons with ever rising dramatic clarity. The latest release captures a season that contrasts great generosity of fully ripe, low-yielding fruit in a dry harvest with profound tension. The power and concentration of epicentre sites across the grand crus are amplified by the definition and richness of biodynamic viticulture. Lécaillon has responded to the richness of the season in the winery astutely calling on a little more oak vinification and less malolactic fermentation and a touch less dosage than the 2008 that proceeded it. And the astute decision to release 2008 after 2009 and to skip the lesser 2010 and 2011 season has dictated that we’re back to just six years on lees here. Pinot noir takes a confident lead, defining a core of deep and powerful red fruit presence that builds a wonderfully rich and expansive mid-palate. Chardonnay declares its presence on the close, defining a tail of grand focus and tension. Six years on lees has contributed more toasty, nutty, spicy, honeyed, ginger complexity than usual, making for an effortlessness, a confidence and an allure rarely seen in Cristal of such desperate youth. It holds every detail in suspended animation on a finish of mesmerising line and length. Malic acidity is played tactically to profound effect, ripe and full and yet excitingly tense and energetic, promising great potential – though its flavour spectrum is already advanced, so this will not go down alongside 2008 as a Cristal for the very long haul. Its mineral definition is a triumph, rising to the chalk mandate that defines Cristal, testimony first to the greatest chalk sites, second to the deep and profound reach of old vine roots, and third to the ever rising impact of biodynamic viticulture. This is a great Cristal by every definition, testimony to a strong season and profound evidence of the rising success of an ever more fanatical approach in the vines and wines.
98 points, Tyson Stelzer
Located 150 km east of Paris, Champagne is the French wine region renowned for producing the finest, most rich and complex sparkling wines in the world. The elegance, longevity and racy acidity of these wines are attributed to the influence of the chalky soils of the region and the cool, marginal continental climate. The region spans an area of 35,000 ha and has 4 main growing areas, each favouring one of the three noble Champagne varieties; Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier. Champagne has a vineyard quality hierarchy based on the soils, aspect and overall quality of the grapes. Like Burgundy, these quality designations are allocated to the vineyards of the village. Of the 319 villages of Champagne, 17 have Grand Cru status and 44 villages are designated Premier Cru. All Champagne is produced by Traditional Method. The vast majority of Champagne is a blend of the three varieties and may also be a blend of several vintages producing the popular Non Vintage (NV) house styles. Top quality blends from exceptional years are sold as Vintage (Millésime) Champagne.