Luxury brand, Cristal Champagne, has been famous since the mid-1800's. Loved by Russian royalty and today's hip-hop artists alike, these pricey bubbles have made quite a reputation for themselves over the years. So, what's the deal with Cristal?
What Is Cristal Champagne?
Cristal Champagne is a traditional sparkling wine made using the méthode champenoise in France's Champagne wine region. It consists of pinot noir and chardonnay grapes, blended in approximately equal amounts. While many Champagnes come from a blend of vintages, Cristal is a vintage Champagne, made from grapes grown in only the best years. This means the wine isn't made each year. Instead, it is only made in years when the grapes are close to perfection, ensuring the highest quality product. Along with limited vintages, there is limited production within a vintage, making these golden bubbles even pricier.
Cristal comes from the historic and renowned Champagne house of Louis Roederer, who has been making sparkling wines since 1833. The vineyards are some of the best sites within the Champagne growing region. Vineyard sites are located in the sub-regions of Côte des Blancs, Montagne de Reims, and the Vallée de la Marne. The 100% estate grown grapes are Demeter-certified, and the bio-dynamically-farmed fruit is picked carefully by hand at peak ripeness. The vines range from 25 years of age to more than 60. Winemakers carefully blend and age the Champagne in a classic technique to produce the perfect balance of flavors and aromas.
Louis Roederer first produced Cristal in the mid-1800s for Tsar Alexander II of Russia. Fearing assassination, Tsar Alexander ordered the winemaker to produce the Champagne in a clear bottle so no one could hide a bomb in it. Louis Roederer commissioned a glassblower to make this unique clear crystal bottle for the Champagne, which ultimately led to the name "Cristal" for the fine wine. The wine itself was not commercially available until the 1945 vintage, when it debuted to the public with its signature clear bottle. Now led by seventh-generation family member, Frédéric Rouzaud, the Champagne brand offers many other vintage and non-vintage Champagnes, including a rosé and a Blanc de Blancs.
Today, Cristal is thought of as a sign of affluence and exclusivity. Hip-hop artists have been known to drop the name in songs, and the clear bottles, affixed with a gold label, are a showy sign of luxury. Not just here for the looks, Cristal Champagne has proven to be delicious each vintage it is produced, with Wine & Spirits Magazine giving the 2002 vintage a perfect score of 10.
Flavors and Aromas
While flavors and aromas vary from year to year, the Champagne is known to be extremely well balanced and silky on the palate. Maison Roederer balances the fresh and aged characteristics of the Champagne to produce fine, effervescent bubbles that lead into aromas of citrus fruit and toast. Rich and creamy honeyed flavors matched by juicy fruits and a delicate mineral element dance across the palate. It finishes with a crisp and refreshing acidity that leaves you reeling for more.
A 750 mL bottle of vintage Cristal typically costs between $150 and $200 for the most recent vintage. Earlier vintages of Cristal may be more expensive as the availability of the wine becomes rarer. If you are looking to have a lavish evening, you can find Cristal at upscale wine shops or through wine auction sites, such as Sotheby's. Websites like Wine Searcher can also help you locate available bottles in the United States and abroad.
Is It Worth the Price?
While this exclusive Champagne is well made and sublimely balanced, there are many grower Champagnes that will make you swoon, often for a significantly smaller price tag. The luxury reputation and assumed rarity of Cristal is really what makes it so famous and sought-after. If you are down to splurge and want to feel like ancient or modern royalty, go for it. Otherwise search out other, equally exceptional Champagnes that will more than win you over.