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.
Disgorged October 2016 and will be the first Cristal to be released ten years from harvest when it is offered in 2018. 35 parcels used from a possible 45 in this vintage. The assemblage is 60% pinot noir and 40% chardonnay. This is so fresh and tense and mineral with extremely exuberant chardonnay notes on the nose of white peach, lemon and yellow grapefruit, and hints of almost brambly sous bois aromas. The yeast characters are also super fresh, and there are subtle woody notes, with a hint of vanilla bean and light spices. The palate is super long, and very pure, powerful and focused. It drives deep and taut. Pinot noir is a strong core and the chardonnay sits at the edge offering lemon and white nectarine sorbet flavors. Staggeringly concentrated, yet the balance makes it seem airy and light. Acidity is perfectly positioned, and the power is intense and long. This is an ultra precise Cristal, finishing with a mere suggestion of savoriness and warmth to come. Impressive on release, this will be at its best drinking from 2025.
100 points, jamessuckling.com (January 2018)
This latest incarnation of the famous brand is a superb wine. It is on par with, maybe even better than, the already legendary 2002. Its balance is impeccable: Apple and citrus flavors working with the tight minerality to give a textured yet fruity wine. Produced from Roederer's own vineyards which are mainly biodynamic, the wine has its own intense purity and crispness. It has amazing potential and is likely to age for many years.
100 points, Wine Enthusiast (January 2017)
This is truly a magnificent wine and a great Cristal. Unusual for it to have any malolactic, but this had 16% , and whereas Cristal is normally disgorged after eight years on lees, this had 10, and was released after the '09. It's a very precise, refined, tensioned wine which echoes the chardonnay and chalk much more than the 2002, which was tasted beside it, the '02 being a more pinoty style (although both are 60% pinot). With aromas of small flowers, mineral and almost alarmingly fresh, it has penetrating flavour and tremendous length. A wine of magnificent harmony, dexterously combining finesse and power.
99 points, The Real Review (June 2019)
A scintillating, exciting wine. Tight, penetrating, very long and complex, with terrific palate line and tension. The balance is outstanding and the energy and drive impressive. A great vintage of this wine. (60:40 pinot noir chardonnay; 20% barrel aged, 20% malolactic. 8 grams/litre dosage)
98 points, The Real Review (September 2018)
A beautiful vintage of Cristal, which was released after the 2009, in reverse order. It's a tight, fresh, youthful wine, which is undoubtedly slow developing and will be long living. It is refined and subtle but at the same time it has the richness contributed by its 60% pinot noir. Great balance, refinement, persistence and panache.
98 points, The Real Review (August 2018)
The 2008 Cristal is a wine that takes over all the senses and never lets up. The brilliance and cut of the Chardonnay finds an extra kick of resonance from the Pinot Noir to carry the mid palate and finish in this stunningly beautiful, chiseled Champagne. Lemon oil, almond, flowers, dried herbs and Mirabelle plum are some of the many aromas and flavors that develop as the 2008 shows off its pedigree. The 2008 is a regal, towering Champagne from Roederer. That’s all there is to it.
98+ points, Vinous (July 2018)
The 2008 Cristal is a real head-turner. Powerful, ample and explosive in all of its dimensions, the 2008 takes hold of the sense and never lets up. There is a crystalline purity to the flavors that is simply remarkable. Although still a baby, the 2008 looks like it will soon take its place alongside the greatest Cristals. Today, it is breathtaking.
98+ points, Vinous (July 2017)
Cristal 2008 is on a roll to yet higher levels of exquisite purity and precision of fruit in a paradoxical balance of weightlessness and depth of flavour, permeated with minerals and a salinity reflecting the greatest terroirs of the Roederer estate. Jean-Baptiste Lecaillon believes that 2008 is his best effort to date, and it's easy to see why. It's from a cooler, maritime vintage that came right in the end, with one of the longest harvests ever, running from mid-September to early October. The colour is a stylish pale gold flecked with green. Aromas of white flowers are joined by a cleansing citrus vigour and richer tones of peach and mirabelle. The palate is still quiet, but a tender creaminnes shows through, and there's so much concentration to come if you drink if after 2021. The greatness of the wine owes everything to the influence of organic and biodynamic precepts in the field - and Lecaillon's sleepless perfectionism in the cellar towards finer fruit and a careful brake on too much yeasty expression. The acidity is vibrant but better integrated in the 2008 than in the 1996. Magnificent. Dosage 7.7g/l.
98 points, Michael Edwards, Decanter (June 2018)
So, here is how it tastes as a "young" cuvée: The 2008 Cristal opens bright, super clear, fresh and pure on the exciting, absolutely fascinating nose with its fine, complex and elegant bouquet of gorgeously ripe and matured fruits, brioche and chalk expressions. This is the finest you can get from Champagne. The palate is pure, lean, fresh and filigreed but concentrated, highly complex, full of tension and enormously vibrant. This is a great vin de terroir, a dense and elegant Super-Cristal that goes straight and precise as a laser beam over the palate but also has texture in the form of sensually fleshy fruit. The dosage, however, is the lowest ever: just 7.5 grams. The endless and highly tensioned finish is complex, citrusy fresh, full of chalk and crystalline finesse. The 2008 Cristal is a vitalizing drug, "the Chevalier Montrachet of Champagne," as Jean-Baptise Lécaillon puts it. It is the most exciting 2008 Champagne I have tasted thus far (May 2018).
97+ points, Wine Advocate (June 2018)
There's a sense of focus and vibrancy to the overall structure, while the palate is all grace and charm. A fine, lacy texture carries a tapestry of ripe white cherry, toast point, blood orange zest, honey and ground ginger notes, with a minerally, mouthwatering finish. A stunning Champagne with a long future ahead of it.
97 points, Alison Napjus, Wine Spectator (November 2018)
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.