I've revisited Roederer's 2013 Cristal four times since I reviewed it in April of this year—including several times from my own cellar—and I had to admit that even my lavish praise didn't do it full justice. Combining the cool-vintage cut of 2008 with the more completely mature fruit of 2012, the 2013 Cristal might well be said to represent the perfect combination of the two from a purist's perspective.
The wine unwinds in the glass with notes of crisp orchard fruit, white flowers, almond paste and citrus oil, followed by a medium to full-bodied, seamless and multidimensional palate that's intense but weightless, with racy acids, a pinpoint mousse and a long, penetrating finish. Drink the 2008 Cristal on its own, and you're unlikely—to put it mildly—to have any complaints; but compare it directly with the 2013 and you'll see Roederer's rapid progress in the vineyards writ large.
Drink 2025 - 2060
William Kelley, Wine Advocate (Sep 2021)
Drink 2021 - 2035
Jancis Robinson, jancisrobinson.com (May 2021)
Drink 2021 - 2033
Simon Field MW, Decanter.com
Drink 2026 - 2048
Jeb Dunnuck, jebdunnuck.com (May 2021)
About this WINE
Founded in 1776, Louis Roederer is a family-owned, independent Champagne house with a well-deserved reputation for quality. It is managed by Frédéric Rouzaud, the seventh generation to be at the helm.
In 1876, Louis Roederer created the now-famous Cristal at the request of Alexander II. This once intensely sweet wine is now one of the most luscious, deeply flavoured champagnes available, with the '88, '89 and '90 among the greatest Cristals ever released.
Louis Roederer’s best-selling non-vintage blend for almost 40 years, Brut Premier, has recently been replaced by Collection 242. This new multi-vintage blend was created by Chef du Caves Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon in response to increasingly warm vintages. The cuvée aims to capture freshness and is based on a perpetual reserve which focuses on acidity and minerality.
Brut denotes a dry style of Champagne (less than 15 grams per litre). Most Champagne is non-vintage, produced from a blend from different years. The non-vintage blend is always based predominately on wines made from the current harvest, enriched with aged wines (their proportion and age varies by brand) from earlier harvests, which impart an additional level of complexity to the end wine. Champagnes from a single vintage are labelled with the year reference and with the description Millésimé.
Non-vintage Champagnes can improve with short-term ageing (typically two to three years), while vintages can develop over much longer periods (five to 30 years). The most exquisite and often top-priced expression of a house’s style is referred to as Prestige Cuvée. Famous examples include Louis Roederer's Cristal, Moët & Chandon's Dom Pérignon, and Pol Roger's Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill.
Which grapes are included in the blend, and their proportion, is one of the key factors determining the style of most Champagnes. Three grapes are used - Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier.
26% of vineyards in Champagne are planted with Chardonnay and it performs best on the Côtes des Blancs and on the chalk slopes south of Epernay. It is relatively simple to grow, although it buds early and thus is susceptible to spring frosts. It produces lighter, fresher wines than those from Burgundy and gives finesse, fruit and elegance to the final blend. It is the sole grape in Blancs de Blancs, which are some of the richest long-lived Champagnes produced.
Pinot Noir accounts for nearly 40% of the plantings in Champagne and lies at the heart of most blends - it gives Champagne its body, structure, strength and grip. It is planted across Champagne and particularly so in the southern Aube district.
The final component is Pinot Meunier and this constitutes nearly 35% of the plantings. Its durability and resistance to spring frosts make the Marne Valley, a notorious frost pocket, its natural home. It ripens well in poor years and produces a soft, fruity style of wine that is ideal for blending with the more assertive flavours of Pinot Noir. Producers allege that Pinot Meunier lacks ageing potential, but this does not deter Krug from including around 15% of it in their final blends.