Cristal 2009 is the most recent release at £549 per 6×75 (£1,098 per 12×75). Antonio Galloni awarded it 96+ points in August, praising its “remarkable depth and striking purity” and noting that it “is a superb Cristal in the making”. The 2009 is 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay. Galloni said that the percentage of wine aged in oak is 15%, which is down slightly from previous vintages.
Cristal 2009 has been pitched at a similar level to the 2006 and 2007 vintages. Both were awarded 97 points by Galloni. The similarly scored, 97-point 2004 last traded at £1,350 per 12×75, while the 96-point 2002 last traded at £1,850 per 12×75, perhaps reflecting the markets appreciation of the acclaimed 2002 vintage. Most of the older vintages from 2002 or earlier have increased since release as supply has diminished. The 1999 vintage, for example, traded at £920 per 12×75 in May 2005 and last traded at £1,940 per 12×75, up 111%.
Out of the last ten vintages, only the 2006 is currently trading at a lower price than it was when released. The 2006 vintage only started to rise one year ago after bottoming out in 2015. It last traded at £1,030 per 12×75, up 12% from its lowest trade of £920 per 12×75 in July 2015. James Suckling awarded the 2006 vintage 97 points, Jancis Robinson gave it 18/20 and David Schildknecht of the Wine Advocate scored it 93 points.
In 1876 when Tsar Alexander II requested that a special cuvée be created for his court Roederer duly obliged, creating what many regard to be the first prestige cuvée.
As the political situation in Russia was somewhat unstable, Tsar Alexander feared assassination. He ordered that Champagne bottles be made of clear glass, so that he could see the bubbles and to prevent anyone from hiding a bomb within, as could easily happen with a typical dark green bottle. Roederer commissioned a Flemish glassmaker to create clear lead crystal Champagne bottles with a flat bottom.
Originally a sweet blend, the Champagne was named “Cristal” after these distinctive clear lead crystal glass bottles.
In 1909, the House of Louis Roederer was regarded as the “Official Purveyor of Champagne to the Imperial Court of Russia” – a business coup that was later reversed following the deposition of the Tsar during the 1917 Revolution. Prohibition in the US caused additional financial difficulties during the early 20th century. However, the house survived these setbacks and today Louis Roederer remains an independent, family-owned business, managed by Roederer’s descendant, Frédéric Rouzaud.
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
A continental, sunny year with a real winter that was very cold and dry followed by a glorious sun-filled summer and almost no rain in August and September. All this meant traditional vine growth, excellent health and remarkable grape ripeness for the production of dense, fruity and delicious wines. 2009 is an obvious addition to the select group of brilliant and accomplished Champagne vintages with a light, sunny character.
60 % Pinot noir, 40% Chardonnay, 16% of the wine vinified in oak casks, no malolactic fermentation.
Cristal is a blend of Grands Crus from the Montagne de Reims, the Vallée de la Marne and the Côte des Blancs. The wine is aged for 6 years in the cellars and left for a minimum of 8 months after disgorging to attain the perfect maturity. The dosage is 8 g/l.