Cristal Champagne, Tsars and Flat Bottoms
The first ever Champagne Grand Cuvée.
The original and still quite possibly the best? Roederer think so, and the reason they give is that they have owned almost all of the vineyards required for production of their wines since the 1830s, steadily increasing this area over the following two centuries.
This understanding, and the consistency that ownership brings, has allowed them to nurture and cultivate the best and ripest grapes available in the whole region. And it shows in their Cristal Champagne, it really is a spectacular wine.
First World War
During the First World War much of the Roederer's many vineyards were destroyed. In the decades that followed, the house restored and replanted these vineyards, but as they were able to use far less of their own grapes, a decision was made to buy in grapes from other vineyards and create a multi-vintage blend, the very first time Roederer had done so, and pretty common practice nowadays.
This was to become their wonderful Roederer Brut Premier Champagne, which is now their most popular and best-selling wine.
Cristal Champagne, however, remains the pick of the bunch 😩 and is really made to showcase the land, grapes and the talent that Louis Roederer possess.
The Russian Czar and Assassin-proof bottles
The story goes that as Roederer began exporting their wines at the end of the 19th Century, the Russian Tsar Alexander the Second commissioned a wine from the house and Louis Roederer responded with Cristal, the first "Cuvée Prestige".
Now, the urban legend is this... the Tsar was so paranoid of assassination attempts that he insisted that the new wine should be bottled in a bottle that was clear and had a solid bottom - no punt.
This was extremely difficult to make and Louis Roederer had to commission a special bottle for the special wine.
It was made from (ah-ha) Cristal and the solid bottom is still there to this day.
But why a solid bottom and clear glass? Because the Tsar believed that one with a punt could hide an explosive device that might be used to kill him. With good reason - he had already survived two assassination attempts before getting to this particular wine.
You can buy the Cristal Champagne here, or the Roederer Brut Premier for a lot less.