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Louis Roederer Cristal
Cristal is the world famous brand name of a Champagne produced by Louis Roederer, one of the top four Champagne houses in the world. Cristal is produced in a flat-bottomed, clear, "crystal" bottle; wrapped in an anti-UV cellophane wrapper; and sports a gold label.
Global awareness of its high price has conferred on the wine an image of exclusivity that, in turn, has helped to elevate demand. In the eyes of those seeking a luxurious lifestyle Cristal has the cachet of being considered a Veblen good, being one of the most sought after Cuvées de Prestige.
Not only is Louis Roederer a noteable Champagne producer but also boasts an exceptional wine portfolio - Louis Roederer Wine.
The outstanding quality and elegance of Louis Roederer Champagne are the result of two centuries of dedication in making only the finest wines
Founded in 1776, this magnificent Champagne house was originally called “Dubois Père et Fils” until 1833 when its business was acquired by Louis Roederer and renamed. Roederer quickly set about expanding the business and conquering the markets of Germany, Hungary, Sweden and, in particular, Russia.
Roederer’s success was certainly fruitful, such that in 1872, under Louis Roederer’s son (also called Louis) distribution reached 2.5 million bottles, accounting for 1/10th of the world’s Champagne production.
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.
Appellation Champagne Contrôlée
Louis Roederer Group (Frédéric Rouzaud)
Total: 214 hectares (528.8 acres)
Only two of the three grape varieties permitted for use in Champagne are used: Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
Louis Roederer Cristal: Pinot Noir (55%), Chardonnay (45%)
Louis Roederer Cristal Rosé: Pinot Noir (60%), Chardonnay (40%)
The region has two great assets: its unpredictable climate and its chalky soil mixed with volcanic minerals.
The annual production of Cristal is around 300,000 to 400,000 bottles.
Top Vintages Produced
Louis Roederer Cristal: 1976, 1979, 1982, 1990, 1999, 2002, 2004, 2009
Louis Roederer Cristal Rosé: 1996, 2002, 2009
Cristal is widely accepted as Louis Roederer’s finest Champagne.
The Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes are grown on individual plots of land in only the best vineyards of Avize, Aÿ, Chouilly,Mareuil, Verzenay, Le Mesnil and Verzy. These various parcels of vines combine to a total of 214 hectares (528.8 acres), all of which are owned by the Champagne house. The strictly controlled and hand-harvested yields are small, with only one bottle of Champagne produced per vine.
During the founder Louis Roederer's management, large cellars were built the heart of the Champagne region on the Boulevard Lundy in Reims. These are still used today but recently a new cellar was built by Rouzaud to accommodate up to 9 million additional bottles.
Louis Roederer Champagne is brought about from using only the finest grapes together with wines from the Louis Roederer Reserve Wine Cellar included in the cuvée. Vintage wines are matured slowly in huge oak casks for a minimum of five years. Prior to this, they are blended into the company's famous cuvées. The inclusion of these specially selected older wines gives to the wine the roundness and depth which is the hallmark of Louis Roederer Champagne.
Cristal is aged for 5 years on its lees (spent yeast), then is allowed to rest for a further 8 months before it is released. This ageing process allows the development of the wine’s toasted aromas, that complement the distinctive bouquet of citrus and white flowers.
Once the disgorgement process (dégorgement) has been completed, the space left is filled with a liqueur d’expédition – a combination of some of the reserve wines and sugar – this determines how dry or sweet the final Champagne will be.
In 1974, Jean-Claude Rouzaud launched Cristal Rosé, made from organically grown grapes from the superior Aÿ vineyards.
The saignée method is used to gently colour the wine, before 20% of the wine is matured in oak barrels. Cristal Rosé rests on its lees for 6 years and then is allowed to rest for an additional 8 months before disgorgement.
A dosage of between 8 and 10 g/l is added to each matured vintage of both Cristal Rosé and Cristal.
Cristal in the news
- In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the brand became increasingly associated with rap and hip-hop culture, with several artists referencing the drink in song lyrics and as part of their public image. In an interview with The Economist in 2006, managing director Frédéric Rouzaud said he viewed the attention from rappers with "curiosity " Asked if he thought the association would harm the brand, he replied, "That's a good question, but what can we do? We can't forbid people from buying it.”
- Many subsequent interpretations and reactions to these statements made by Rouzard resulted in the brand's loss of prestige among many hip-hop artistes. Cristal went from being the rappers default option to being junked, For example the rapper Jay-Z released a statement saying he would never drink Cristal nor promote it in any way at any of his clubs for what he percieved was an example of off-hand, patronizing disrespect towards hip hop culture.
- The former England football captain and his wife - known as Posh and Becks - insisted they be provided with the Champagne during their stay at the Hempel, an ultra-exclusive hotel in Bayswater, west London. According to reports, the Beckhams were ‘dismayed’ not to find her favourite Champagne in the ice buckets, and former 'Posh Spice' Victoria demanded it be changed. 'She was quite clear that she and David were not happy with anything else but Cristal,’ hotel staff said.
- Champagne Roederer is in the final stages of developing a new Brut Nature cuvée – an ultra dry Champagne with no added sugar or dosage. The new cuvée , will be available from the end of 2010. The base wine will be estate-grown Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from the 2006 vintage. He also stressed that this would be a ‘connoisseur’s cuvée’ – ‘a very special wine for special occasions’ – but it would be priced at the level of Roederer vintage, not Cristal.
Address: 21 Boulevard Lundy 51100 Reims France
Telephone: +33 (0) 3 26 40 42 11
Fax: +33 (0) 3 26 47 66 51
- The Wine Bible K.MacNeil, Workman Publishing, New York, 2001.