The composition of Cristal is approximately 55% Pinot Noir and 45% Chardonnay. The grapes used in the wine come from only the finest vineyards in Grand Cru villages. Lecaillon talks about the crucial role that vineyards play in quality:
“A majority of our most recent development has been in vineyard operations. We have strict limits set for crop yields and we're using vines that are 25 years old on average. We evaluate the grapes coming from our own vineyards very critically. We try to improve the vineyards that aren't performing well and keep the ones that are at the highest level of quality.
The grapes from our own vineyards produce wines with an alcohol content that’s an average of 1% higher than those produced with purchased grapes. There’s less tart malic acid in our own grapes. Even though we strive for the highest possible acidity, it’s absolutely necessary that this is accompanied by a ripe fruitiness. We belong to the five-percent minority of Champagne's producers who do not use malolactic fermentation to reduce wine acidity. The range of aromas is accentuated by the high-acid structure, much in the same way a salad dressing brings out the aromas in the food.
“And we stopped using cloned vines - we're only using the vine offspring from our own vineyards to ensure natural diversity. In the 1950s, -60s and -70s cloning was far too simple a solution for such a complex thing." Chef de Cave Jean-Baptiste Lecaillon explained
In 1958 the total area in production in the official wine producing zone was 11,500 hectares. By using a part, and that it was only a part should be emphasized, of the land entitled to the champagne appellation, the area of vineyards was doubled in twenty years with the planting of 12,460 hectares, which, taking into account the effect of the unused plantation rights in 1958, gave a total of 24,252 hectares in production in 1978, the highest level of the decade following the stop in new planting in 1975. Vines also reappeared on hillsides from which they had long been absent, especially in the Sézanne region, in the valleys of the Aube and along the Marne, from Dormans to Château-Thierry and even beyond.
It should be made clear that it was not only in the Aisne and the Aube that new vines were planted, in fact it was rather the opposite. The vineyards in these two counties or départements expanded by 16 and 17.5% respectively, against 22% in the Marne and in 1978 the latter represented 79.5% of the total area of vines in the Champagne's wine producing zone, i.e. about three quarters, the Aisne and the Aube accounting for 5.5% and 15% respectively. The grands crus, which were already well-stocked, had taken little interest in planting new vines and the average price of vineyard land had thus slightly fallen. But it should not be forgotten that all the smaller vineyards were graded, and presented characteristics which had always been recognized as being suitable for producing good quality champagne.
At the same time yields had increased as a result of improvements in the productivity of the vineyards, and rose from 33 hectolitres per hectare in the 1950s to more than 60 hectolitres in the 1970s. This was obtained not through changes in pruning techniques or increasing the amount of fertilizer used, which would have compromised quality, but through better growing techniques that reduced the number of factors that could adversely affect the yield, such as parasites and diseases. The annual capacity of the vineyards, which had been between 50 and 70 million bottles in 1950 was thus increased by 1980 to between 180 and 200 million, in accordance with demand.
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Average Bottle Price
|1 876€ +12.3%||1 670€ +14.5%||1 459€ +17.2%||1 245€ +57.6%||790€ +21.5%||650€ +91.2%||340€|