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Cristal Rosé was first born a hundred years after the original Cristal, in 1974. It is an intriguing and particular prestige cuvée rosé, as it has the palest colour, yet a contrastingly fleshy, fruity, well-built palate of amazing freshness. Its secret is in the 60 per cent Pinot Noir from two hectares of Roederer’s own old-vine vineyards in Aÿ, Bonotte-Pierre-Robert and La Côte du Moulin, which are now cultivated according to biodynamic principles. It is these ripe, concentrated grapes that give the wine its delicate hue via the saignée, or bleeding method. Then 30 per cent of Côte des Blancs Grand Cru Chardonnay from Le Mesnil sur Oger and Avize is added to give spine and elegance.
Up to this point 1996 has been considered a fantastic vintage which produced classic wines; the best since 1990. A long, dry summer produced grapes of record ripeness with record acidity. Some, including myself, question how the 1996s are aging. The wines are generally characterized by a distinctive rather lemony acidity and very good attack, but some wines now seem terribly austere, while others already seem dangerously short of fruit. None of the subsequent vintages are quite as distinctive as 1996, which in the more successful cases should almost certainly be drunk after the 1999s.