Louis Roederer Cristal Brut, Champagne
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.
Cristal is the Champagne of Champange.
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.