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.
A very rich and full-bodied Cristal that harks back to 2006 or 1989 in style. It's round and rich, which underlies the ripeness of the vintage. Lots of dried-apple and pineapple character with bread dough and flan flavors. The bubbles are so fine you almost don't notice them. Very vinous style.
97 points, James Suckling (October 2016)
The latest incarnation of this famous Champagne now comes from Roderer's own vineyards, a good portion of which are run on biodynamic lines. This still-young wine has great depth and richness, a beautiful balance between ripe fruit and crisp texture that make it alive, crisp and bright. As it matures, it will deepen and become even more intense. Drink now if you must, but preferably wait until 2019.
97 points, Roger Voss (January 2016)
Rich, creamy and radiant, the 2009 Cristal captures all of the natural generosity of the vintage while also retaining a good bit of freshness and aromatic intensity. Immediate and totally sensual in its allure, the 2009 will drink well with minimal cellaring. All things considered, at this stage, the 2009 comes across as relatively restrained for a wine from a warm year.
2009 Cristal has really shut down since I tasted it this past spring, which is probably a very good thing for its potential longevity. The radiance and richness the 2009 showed just a few months ago is not all evident. Instead, the 2009 comes across as tightly wound and in need of considerable cellaring. I expect it will drink well for a period measured in decades rather than years. The 2009 has always been quite exuberant, but for now, it looks the wine is going to need a bit of time before it is at its best. Readers should note that Roederer has decided to release the 2009 ahead of the 2008.
The 2009 Cristal is a blend of Grands Crus from the Montagne de Reims, the Vallée de la Marne and the Côte des Blancs (a total of 33-34 parcels of which 40% were farmed biodynamically). Like the 2008 Cristal, the 2009 also blends 60% Pinot Noir with 40% Chardonnay, and 16% of the wine was vinified in oak casks. No malolactic fermentation was done. The 2009 was aged for six years in the cellars and was disgorged in March 2016 with a dosage of eight grams per liter. Released two years ago, the 2009 is just starting another, more "Burgundian" life. Tasted in May 2018, the bouquet was pretty reductive, with flinty and toasty/nutty notes and some potted ginger flavors. Full-bodied, round and rich on the palate, this is a stunningly pure, fresh and salty 2009 that is driven by its chalky terroir and the lingering salinity. Is it really 2009? It is ripe, yes, but driven by the strength of chalk. The finish is pure, clean, fresh, very complex and long yet delicate and endlessly salty.
95+ points, Stephen Reinhardt, Wine Advocate (June 2018)
White peach and acacia blossom aromas accent the flavors of poached apple, gingersnap biscuit, pastry cream and spun honey in this harmonious Champagne. The satiny mousse caresses the palate, while firm, focused acidity drives the lasting finish.
95 points, Wine Spectator (November 2016)
Roederer has released the '09 before the '08 as it is an open, warm-year wine while '08 is a slow-aging long-termer. Hints of mushroom and earth on the nose, which is a trifle closed and shy. The palate is very impressive: tremendous power, terrific acidity, incredibly length. "Invisible concentration"; "weightless density" were phrases tossed about. The power and impact of the wine are undeniable. The aromas and flavours are restrained and subtle, refined and tightly coiled. As usual, I have the feeling that the wine is released a bit young and will be worth waiting at least another year for. (60/40 pinot noir/chardonnay; no malolactic; 16% oak fermented; made from old vines in 7 grand cru villages. Dosage 8 g/l.)
95 points, Huon Hooke (October 2016)
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.