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Rich and complex aromas with notes of zesty and candied fruit (lemon) mingled with pollen (white flowers), roasted hazelnut and Madagascar vanilla. After aeration, the bouquet develops rich notes of fresh pastries and smoky notes from bottle ageing.
A delicious, concentrated and chalky palate. It shows incredible tension and perfectly honed aromatic precision. The attack is powerful, distinctive and concentrated and reveals a silky, mouth-coating texture, characteristic of the ripe Pinot noirs from the 2012 vintage.
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
"2012. It was a year of contrasts, one of hard toil but full of light. And it was a year in which the maturity of the grapes crafted a Cristal of a new dimension. »
Born in a year of contrasts, Cristal 2012 weaves a subtle blend of strength and finesse, the happy alliance of superb depth combined with the freshness of its limestone terroir. This wine of substance and firepower, born in the light of the white soils, finds a rare intensity in this year of fabulous maturity.
For Lécaillon, Cristal 2012 marks “the next chapter.” After more than a decade of steadily transforming the vineyards to biodynamic farming methods, 2012 was the year in which Louis Roederer went “full speed on biodynamics”, finally converting all 45 parcels that make up the ‘Cristal Estate’ to biodynamic farming methods. Cristal 2012 is therefore the first 100% biodynamically farmed Cristal vintage. “We changed our viticulture, which will speak with time … we will see the wine showing its multilayered dimension,” Lécaillon told us during a visit to the house earlier this year.
Though dosage is Lécaillon’s least favourite topic of discussion, he also revealed that both new releases have “the lowest dosage ever”; 7 g/l for Cristal 2012 and 8 g/l for Cristal Rosé 2012. We tasted both with Lécaillon alongside the previous release and – whether it is the biodynamic effect or not (just 40% of the Cristal parcels were farmed biodynamically in 2008) – were struck by the difference in personality between Cristal 2012 and Cristal 2008. Cristal 2008 was very closed at launch and, while Cristal 2012 is clearly still just a baby, it has a more approachable, palatable texture than its predecessor.
The vintage influence is of course not to be overlooked: 2012 was a warm year, 2008 a cold year. More post-disgorgement time will be necessary before any credible comparison can be made, but Cristal 2012 is at least as exciting a prospect as Cristal 2008 was upon release 18 moths ago, if not more. A mere glance at the press reviews below show that the critics, it seems, agree.
2012 was deemed one of the best vintages the Champagne region has ever experienced. “The quality and the intensity are definitely there to make an outstanding vintage,” Dom Perignon chef de cave Richard Geoffroy told Decanter. The base wines show a lovely richness as well as the acidity needed to make outstanding and long-lived Champagnes. Yields are very low, in some places half of the allowed production.