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
As for vintages, blancs de blancs (made with white grapes), crémants and pink champagnes, they continued to find favour amongst champagne lovers, but non-vintage has remained the backbone of production. There have been some exceptional vintages, notably 1947, 1955, 1964, and 1973, with some people also including 1961 and 1975. Here is a list, up to 1983, of the all the years in which a vintage was generally declared since the start of Second World War: 1941, 1943, 1945, 1947, 1949, 1952, 1953, 1955, 1959, 1961, 1962, 1964, 1966, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1973, 1975, 1976, 1979. Some houses also produced a vintage in 1974 and 1978. In 1983, the wines of 1980, 1981 and 1982 seemed likely to be declared vintages, but since 1980 and 1981 were both years in which the production was comparatively small, there is little chance that this will occur on a large scale.