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CRISTAL LAUNCHES VINOTHÈQUE

The release covers the 1995 brut and rosé, which were disgorged just over 10 years ago but then kept back in Roederer’s cellars to age.

Just 400 bottles of the brut and 200 bottles of the rosé have been released meaning global allocations are extremely tight. In the UK Richard Billett, managing director of the Roederer Group’s distribution arm in the UK, Maisons Marques & Domaines, told db he expected just 48 bottles of the brut and 12-18 bottles of the rosé to be made available.

The bottles (no larger formats have been released – this time) have initially been offered to the premium off-trade and high-end on-trade.

The wines were introduced by the house at a ‘surrealist spectacular’, held at Roederer’s Reims headquarters in early October to celebrate its 241st anniversary.

Although Roederer’s executive vice-president, Michel Janneau, conceded that the amount of wine released was “infinitesimally small”, he added, “fear not – it is not without sequel; other vintages will follow this.”

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History

In 1876, a Roederer champagne made for Russia’s Tsar Alexander II became the world’s first luxury cuvée.

But with the sudden collapse of the Russian market, the champagne house endured a long struggle on the verge of bankruptcy. Eventually, the family’s shrewd patriarchs managed to turn things around, and today, Roederer is the most solvent of Champagne’s houses; indeed, its future looks Cristal clear. Roederer is one of the few top champagne houses to remain family-owned. Although the house’s history actually begins in 1776, the company was not called Roederer until 1833, when Louis Roederer inherited the business from his uncle. It was Louis Roederer himself who increased the house’s production volume to its present level, 2.5 million bottles a year. He laid the foundation for exports and, particularly in Russia, enjoyed great success. Louis Roederer II, his son, receives the credit for developing Cristal.

 

The Russian Tsar was absolutely taken with Roederer champagne: in 1873, some 666,386 bottles, which amounted to approximately 27% of its entire production, were delivered to the court of Alexander II. In order to formalise Roederer’s status as official purveyor to the Imperial Court of Russia, Alexander II commissioned Louis Roederer to produce a very sweet, prestige blend packaged in a real crystal glass bottle. Roederer’s Martine Charlotte Lorson told us: ”The first luxury cuvée was born. From the very beginning, the bottle was clear and flat-bottomed. We later patented the bottle’s design. We have tried to change from the flat-bottomed bottle, but we can’t. Because of and thanks to the patent, Cristal’s label and appearance have stayed the same since 1928!” And how fortunate that is, because, at least in our opinion, it is quite possibly the most beautiful wine bottle in the world, especially when wrapped in its trademark amber cellophane.

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Vineyards

Chef de Cave Jean-Baptiste Lecaillon explained the practicalities: ”We started using cellophane in the late 1970s, and there were still bottles with and without cellophane available in the early 1980s. Champagne is a light-sensitive product, so even though the cellophane is beautiful, it also plays a key role in protecting the Cristal from ultraviolet radiation. The amber cellophane also makes the bottle instantly recognisable, thus serving as a brand-building tool.” The story of Cristal’s genuine crystal bottle is well-known.

 

This is why we were surprised to discover that there is not one true crystal bottle in existence or even a photograph of one. ”Unfortunately, that’s true”, says Lorson, and continues: ”We’ve been searching high and low without any luck. But then again, Cristal was only packaged in crystal bottles for one or two years. The bottle was too weak to withstand the pressure and, because the Tsar’s champagne was so sweet, there was some post-fermentation, and the resulting losses were too much even for the extravagant Tsar.” The 1970s were a turning point of sorts for Roederer and Cristal

 

Our vineyards have a pronounced northern character and the estate’s land is the source of our quality wines. All our parcels—the estate, which originally comprised 100 hectares acquired in 1850, now extends over 240 hectares—were carefully chosen and acquired in the best terroirs of Champagne, in the Grands and Premiers Crus of the Montagne de Reims, the Côte des Blancs, and the Vallée de la Marne. The men and women of Louis Roederer have a profound attachment to the vineyards—this is what distinguishes our House from all the others. All the wine growers are perfectly acquainted with their parcels and even each vine, which they tend year after year. This creates a unique link between the vines and the men and women who devote all their time and energy to them.

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Winemaking

Camille Olry-Roederer’s grandson Jean-Claude Rouzaud joined the house and gradually took the helm. It was a rough start, as TCA, a chemical compound that causes cork taint, infested the Roederer cellars. The young man faced an enormous undertaking. A huge volume of wine had to be taken off the market and disposed of, and the entire production facility had to be sterilised and rebuilt. This is also the period of Cristal’s emerging popularity, when Roederer worked with an American importer to make Cristal the world’s most in-demand champagne.

 

A key detail of this plan was to double the price. When Rouzaud was named Decanter Man of the Year in 2001, he said in an interview that one of the most significant things he had done at Roederer was to decrease the production of Cristal from one third to under a fifth of Roederer’s overall production. High price and low availability - alongside uncompromised quality - have made Cristal the most coveted champagne in the world.

 

Winemaking

 

The wines need to be blended to create the Louis Roederer champagnes: the unique blends are the fruit of the intuition and talent of a team of women and men led and guided by the Cellar Master, who guarantees the integrity of the House’s style. The diverse sensibilities and different talents are the key to Louis Roederer’s uniqueness. With an extraordinary palette of wines at their disposal, the Cellar Master and the oenologists create their wines—the cuvées—, which are bottled when they have attained a perfect equilibrium. They then undergo a new phase of fermentation for 3 to 6 weeks…

 

The magical process continues in the quiet dark cellars, where the compositions of the oenologists are finally transformed into champagnes. Louis Roederer’s team has worked hard to bring the wine to this point—now time is the key factor. The only intervention required on the bottles is daily riddling, a process that ensures that any suspended deposits settle in the bottlenecks. The deposits are then removed, leaving a perfectly clear and luminous champagne that only requires the final touch: the champagne will only be complete after adding the liqueur d’expédition, which distinguishes the House’s unique style. The wine is ‘the fruit of the input of everyone involved in its creation’, and each of our champagnes perpetuates the traditions of the House, its quest for perfection, and its spirit of innovation and experimentation; this paves the way for future heirs to ‘do even better’ than their predecessors…

 

Today’s masterpieces are setting ever higher standards
for tomorrow’s wines— Louis Roederer’s quest for perfection

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20 different wines with 211 vintages

Winemaking since 1776

  • Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon

    Cellar Master
    A wine of pure pleasure and a sophisticated gastronomic wine, Cristal is both powerful and delicate, combining subtlety and precision. A wine of pure pleasure and a sophisticated gastronomic wine, Cristal is both powerful and delicate, combining subtlety and precision.
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