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Wine & Spirits - Joshua Greene - December 2011
97 Points "The energy in this wine recalls the 2002 Cristal (I wrote 'energy' three times in my notes.) In 2004, it's explosive. The wine is saturated with flavor, from floral notes of rose to pale limestone and equally pale fruit. The flavors keep going, as if striding through doorway after doorway in a limestone cellar, the Champenois equivalent of Get Smart. Built to age as gracefully as Agent 99, this won't disappoint if you open it now with scallop crudo."
QRW - QRW Tasting Panel - April 2011
Best of Show "In a class by itself. Even in an average vintage Cristal delivers. Toasty, frothy, elegant, creamy, with pear and nutty notes, and a gorgeous finish."
The Wine Advocate - Antonio Galloni - December 23, 2010
97 Points "It is a powerful, structured Cristal layered with considerable fruit. ...Readers who are willing to spend some time with the wine today will find a super-impressive, complete Cristal. ...the 2004 Cristal has come together beautifully and is shaping up to be a truly great, monumental Champagne."
CNBC.com - Ray W. Isle - December 23, 2010
"Cristal is what Champagne producers refer to as a ‘tête de cuvee,’ the top-of-the-line offering. It’s only made in the best vintages, and takes that classic Champagne elegance and moves it up to entirely new level of refinement (that’s one reason why it’s best served in white wine glasses—you really want to be able to smell it). Also, like most great wines and if kept in ideal cellar conditions, Cristal can age beautifully for decades."
Wine Spectator - Bruce Sanderson - December 15, 2010
93 Points "Floral, citrus and spice aromas and flavors are at the forefront of this filigree, delicate Champagne. This is harmonious and well-defined, with a long aftertaste of roasted nut and toast."
Wine & Spirits - December 01, 2010
97 Points "A pale beauty with delicate power, energy and dimension, the 2004 Cristal is an impressive follow-up to the 2002. Scents of apple blossom hint at the depth and clarity of the fruit, layered with ginger and spice in a flavor delivered over the course of several minutes. The freshness of the wine comes through in a subtle hum rather than anything as overt as a buzz, bright, airy and unstoppable."
International Wine Cellar - Josh Raynolds - November 2010
94 Points "Taut, linear lemon and orange rind flavors give way to deeper pear in the mid-palate and pick up notes of honeysuckle and toasted grain with air. Still very young but shows excellent promise. Finishes with good mineral cut and sappy persistence."
The Wine Advocate - Antonio Galloni - July 15, 2010
96 Points "An explosion of fruit emerges from the 2004 Cristal, making a strong and very positive first impression. This is a wine of incredible finesse, length and balance that promises to develop beautifully over the next several decades."
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 classic, generous year, yielding both quantity and quality. 2004 followed the same climatic trends as 2002 : cool, moderate temperatures throughout the season; and a considerably reduced rainfall (by about 30%) during the growing cycle, which, despite a particularly cold and rainy month of August, was fortunately followed by a dry and sunny September, ripening the grapes off impressively. The Louis Roederer vineyard team worked intensively in this period, and by the 20th September the grapes had attained a “vintage” balance, combining maturity and freshness.
Composed of 55% Pinot noir and 45% Chardonnay (20% of which is matured in oak casks with weekly batonnage). No malolactic fermentation occurs. Cristal is produced using harvests from the finest vineyards of Montagne de Reims, the Vallée de la Marne and the Côte des Blancs.
Cristal ages an average of 5 years in the cellars and rests 8 months after disgorgement to perfect its maturity.
DOSAGE : between 8 and 10 g/l is customised to complement each vintage.
Cristal 2004 - incisive, seductive and delicious - has a “slender”, almost “living” freshness. Highly contemporary in its harmony and immediate seductiveness, it nevertheless remains first and foremost a great classic of northern Champagne, combining freshness, energy and an almost chalky mineral quality.
The Cristal hallmarks are evident: purity, precision and the unique harmony of flavours associated with the subtle power of our historic vines, located on the finest Champagne Grand Cru terroirs.
«Brilliant yellow colour displaying light amber nuances, combined with an ultra-fine, persistent, soft effervescence. There’s an intense, highly expressive bouquet on the first nose! The aromatic elegance and precision of Chardonnay is apparent: white fruit, sweet pollen, fine citrus fruit and very pure minerality. After a few minutes, the aromas move on to more confit, lightly grilled hints. The bouquet is rich and sweet, almost generous, remaining precise and impeccably refined. The bite in the mouth is full and creamy, revealing an incredible concentration of juicy fruits: yellow peach, apricot, mango and others.
This silky, meaty concentration, which is both dense and soft – and typical of great Pinot noir – is immediately combined with a sophisticated touch of acidity, ringing the wine alive with minerality. The overriding impression is one of a true harmony of flavours, senses and silky textures... Absolute sensuality.»
A great example of how large yields do not necessarily mean poor quality in Champagne. As a reaction to the previous year's low yields, the vines produced one of the largest crops on record. The growing season proceeded without major difficulties but the bumper crop called for bud thinning. August brought about cooler weather and some rains, increasing the risk of rot. The massive crop, averaging 13,990 kg/ha, was picked from September 18th onwards. The quality was a pleasant surprise; vibrant wines with appropriate intensity, refined charm and refreshing lightness. This vintage impresses me more and more, and I feel tempted to give it the full five stars. It comes with a rare balance of freshness, lightness, yet fine aromatic intensity. Post-release, this vintage has proven to be slow to age, and elegant wines are likely to keep on ageing gracefully. Dom Pérignon and Louis Roederer Cristal both excelled.