Owner: The Roederer family
Vineyard area: 240 hectares
Average annual production: 300,000-400,000 bottles p/a
Standard blend: Pinot Noir (55%) and Chardonnay (45%)
Other wines: Cristal Rose
The birth of Cristal dates back to the second half of the 19th century, when the Louis Roederer champagne house in Reims turned its attention to markets beyond the French border, including Hungary, Sweden and Russia. In 1876, Alexander II of Russia sent his cellar master to La Maison Roederer and commissioned the creation of a special blend – now widely recognised as the world’s first “prestige cuvee”. Given the unstable political situation in Russia, however, the tsar called on a Flemish glass worker to design a clear bottle in order to ensure that any smuggled in bombs could be easily detected. He also requested that the bottles be flat bottomed, necessitating the use of lead crystal rather than glass (to withstand the pressure). This was the genesis of Cristal – a luxury brand owned and enjoyed by kings, princes, and more recently, rappers.
The wine was not commercially available until 1945. Since the 1990s, the champagne has been closely associated with all things hip hop – a note of contention for the house’s managing director, Frederic Rouzaud that led to the rapper “Jay-Z” boycotting the brand. Nonetheless, Cristal continues to enjoy a strong international following beyond the bounds of American hip hop and is widely considered one of the world’s greatest Champagnes.
Every bottle of Cristal is produced from the house’s own vineyards. A quarter of the blend is usually oak-fermented while the remainder is fermented in stainless steel.
Cristal 2009 is the most recent release at £549 per 6×75 (£1,098 per 12×75). Antonio Galloni awarded it 96+ points in August, praising its “remarkable depth and striking purity” and noting that it “is a superb Cristal in the making”. The 2009 is 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay. Galloni said that the percentage of wine aged in oak is 15%, which is down slightly from previous vintages.
Cristal 2009 has been pitched at a similar level to the 2006 and 2007 vintages. Both were awarded 97 points by Galloni. The similarly scored, 97-point 2004 last traded at £1,350 per 12×75, while the 96-point 2002 last traded at £1,850 per 12×75, perhaps reflecting the markets appreciation of the acclaimed 2002 vintage. Most of the older vintages from 2002 or earlier have increased since release as supply has diminished. The 1999 vintage, for example, traded at £920 per 12×75 in May 2005 and last traded at £1,940 per 12×75, up 111%.
Out of the last ten vintages, only the 2006 is currently trading at a lower price than it was when released. The 2006 vintage only started to rise one year ago after bottoming out in 2015. It last traded at £1,030 per 12×75, up 12% from its lowest trade of £920 per 12×75 in July 2015. James Suckling awarded the 2006 vintage 97 points, Jancis Robinson gave it 18/20 and David Schildknecht of the Wine Advocate scored it 93 points.