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Galloni: “Magnum: One of the many highlights of the afternoon, the 1996 Cristal Vinothèque (magnum) exudes a level of richness and intensity that is simply breathtaking. That extra kick of richness the 1996 has developed in magnum and over extended time on the lees is pure magic in balancing some of the natural austerity of the year. What comes through is a Champagne of unforgettable profoundness. Smoke, crushed rocks, white flowers, mint and finely sculpted citrus confit/orchard fruit add striking layers of dimensions. The 1996 is so bright and so alive in the glass. A whole range of Chardonnay inflections punctuate the finish. This is a late disgorgement from 2009. Dosage: 8 g/l ”
Now world-famous, Cristal is produced only from the truly great vintages in which the ripeness of the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes can provide the subtle and precise balance that is now the distinction of this cuvée. Between 20-30% of the wines are vinified in oak barrels and the final blend is matured for six years in the cellars and rests for twelve months after disgorgement. Recently, the Cristal vineyards have been converting to biodynamic farming methods and the House estimates that by 2020 all Cristal plots will be cultivated biodynamically.
The 1996 vintage was a standout year: one of, if not the, best of the last twenty. A warm beginning to June followed by a cooler end provided favourable growing conditions and the weather fluctuation resulted in staggered flowering of the Chardonnay grapes. September was sunny but mild with light scattered showers creating incredible grape maturation with high sugar and acidity levels. This unique sugar/acidity balance combined with small, concentrated berries revealed an aromatic depth rarely seen in Champagne.
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.