Cristal – The 1980s…A Decade of Change

"A recent vertical of 1980s Cristals was the third chapter in a remarkable series of tastings I have been fortunate to experience at Roederer over the last few years. In each of those occasions, I have come away with a deeper understanding of what makes Cristal and Cristal Rosé so special. For this tasting, longtime Chef de Caves Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon presented a complete vertical of the 1980s Cristals, all from the original disgorgements. (Cristal was not released in 1984, 1986 or 1987.) As much as I hope the accompanying tasting notes will be of interest to Vinous readers, Lécaillon’s comments on the vintages, a group of wines that chronicle an age in which so much in Champagne evolved – most notably farming practices and the encroachment of climate change – are a precious contribution to our collective culture and understanding of these wines and Champagne more broadly. First created in 1876 as a special high-end cuvée for Tsar Alexander II, Cristal is one of Champagne’s most iconic wines and Roederer’s flagship. The distinctive transparent glass bottle (originally lead crystal) adds to Cristal’s allure. Cristal is approximately 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay sourced from a collection of estate vineyards in Verzenay, Verzy, Beaumont-sur-Vesle, Aÿ and Mareuil-sur-Aÿ for the Pinots, and Avize, Mesnil and Cramant for the Chardonnays." -- Antonio Galloni, Vinous, Cristal – The 1980s…A Decade of Change, December 2018 Here are three of the Cristals from Antonio Galloni's tasting. To see how the other wines fared, check out the full article on Vinous and whet those Champagne taste buds for this Holiday Season. Cheers!

Louis Roederer

Cristal Brut Champagne Chardonnay Pinot Noir Blend 1982

Delectable Wine
9.6

One of my all time favorites, the 1982 Cristal is magnificent. Fresh, nuanced and exceptionally beautiful, the 1982 remains one of the all-time great Cristals. Apricot, almond and chamomile nuances suggest the 1982 is just starting to turn the corner into its plateau of maturity. This bottle lacks a bit of excitement, but, then again, the 1982 Cristal is not exactly the sort of wine I get to taste on a regular basis, so it is possible this is not the best showing. Hopefully, I will get a chance to taste it again soon. Even so, well-stored bottles will drink well for another decade-plus. “In my opinion, 1982 is the first vintage of climate change in Champagne,” Lécaillon explains. “Sugars were higher than we were used to seeing. As a comparison, the 1981 Cristal is also concentrated, but it is concentrated by low yields. In 1982, we had high yields and elevated ripeness, meaning it was the sun that ripened the fruit.” (Antonio Galloni, Vinous, December 2018) — 8 months ago

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Louis Roederer

Cristal Brut Champagne Chardonnay Pinot Noir Blend 1985

Delectable Wine
9.5

The 1985 Cristal is powerful and resonant on the palate, with just the earliest hints of oxidative notes starting to appear. The 1985 may not have quite the layers, focus or pedigree of the very best years, but it more than makes up for that with its inviting, generous personality. There is so much to like, including the wine’s soft curves and racy feel. The 1985 is an especially opulent Cristal, with attractive smoky and torrefaction overtones, and exceptional balance. “In 1985, we had a severe frost that lowered yields dramatically,” Chef de Caves Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon recounted. “It was a vintage to handle carefully. From what the old-timers told me, because I was not here, set was so bad that the percentage of stems relative to fruit was quite high. Our crew works hard to cut as close as possible, especially in challenging vintages. But I imagine some stems and underripe berries made it into the tanks, resulting in somewhat green, bitter flavors at pressing. In the end though, those qualities have been pretty good for aging. Ultimately, Champagne is a battle between ripeness and greenness. If you are too ripe, you have rot, and if you aren’t ripe enough, you are green. You need to find the optimal window for picking.” (Antonio Galloni, Vinous, December 2018) — 8 months ago

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Louis Roederer

Cristal Brut Champagne Chardonnay Pinot Noir Blend 1983

Delectable Wine
9.6

The 1983 Cristal is fabulous. Rich, ample and generous, the 1983 is incredibly inviting, with tons of class and personality. A wine of real volume and textural breadth, the 1983 has enough pedigree to drink well for many years. None of the elements stand out in the 1983, the whole is far greater than the sum of the parts. “Nineteen eighty-three is a different animal from some of the other wines of the decade,” Lécaillon explains. “It was a heavy crop, with a lot of fruit. There was so much wine in the cellar that the team could not get to everything in a timely fashion, and so there were some lots that started to oxidize a bit, and that, naturally, made the wine bigger.” In tasting, though, there are no off aromas or mushroomy flavors that suggest the wine is fading. If anything, the 1983 is spectacularly beautiful right now, even in the presence of other wines from more highly reputed vintages. (Antonio Galloni, Vinous, December 2018) — 8 months ago

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