This iconic wine, from the three top regions of Champagne (Cotes de Blancs, Valée de la Marne and Montagne de Reims) is a blend of 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay and has citrus, green and yellow fruit and a vanilla and light toasted note. Brioche develops on the palate as do notes of smoke, all wrapped up in the amazing silky body that carries unbelievable tension.
2012 was a difficult vintage in Champagne; erratic climatic effects made vineyard owners work hard. Roederer were fortunate and though the yields were very low, they picked very ripe, full grapes at harvest. 2012 was also the vintage that saw new viticulture practices adopted by Louis Roederer, which could have been problematic, but proved to be the saving of the vintage.
The first ever Champagne Grand Cuvée. The original and still quite possibly the best. The reason that Roederer gives 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. This really is a spectacular wine.
During the First World War much of the Roederer's many vineyards were ruined. 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 first time Roederer had done so. This became their wonderful Brut Premier, which is now their most popular and best-selling wine. Cristal, however, remains the pick of the bunch (apologies...) and is really made to showcase the land, grapes and the talent that Louis Roederer possess.
The story goes that as they began exporting their wines at the end of the 19th Century, the Russian Tsar Alexander the 2nd commissioned a wine from the house and Louis Roederer the 2nd 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 sold 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. 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.
Cristal 2012; 19/20 Jancis Robinson; 97 Points Robert Parker
Grape(s): Pinot Noir, Chardonnay
Style: Powerful, Fresh, Elegant, Complex, Bright
Best food matches: Lobster, Fine Dining