Wine Tasting: Cristal and company from Louis Roederer
Parties for celebrities, royalty and financiers often feature Cristal as the toasting champagne. Cristal is Louis Roederer Champagne's prestige label.
It made its debut in 1876 when Tsar Alexander II requested the champagne house to produce a cuvée for his exclusive use. During that time of political instability, extra security measures were taken by the Russian imperial court: the champagne came in a transparent bottle so any poison would be visible, and instead of having the usual punt, the bottom of this bottle was flat so that nothing could be concealed.
The champagne was officially released to the public in 1945. Modern packaging includes the use of orange cellophane wrapping to protect the wine from ultraviolet rays.
Louis Roederer was established in 1776 and remains a family business. It is now run by sixth-generation scion Frederic Rouzard.
The company's vice-president, Michel Janneau, says the French region of Champagne produces about 330 million bottles a year. Still, with a total production of about 3.2 million bottles, Louis Roederer is considered a medium-sized company.
Cristal is expensive and has a reputation for exclusivity, but there are plenty of other more affordable champagnes from the Roederer portfolio.
Louis Roederer Cristal Brut 2005
Cristal is only made in exceptional years, when grapes have reached sufficient quality. The label produces about 300,000 bottles a year, compared to Dom Perignion's estimated three to four million bottles of champagne.
Honey, floral notes. Powerful on the palate with high fruit intensity, balanced acidity with a long and balanced finish. Still youthful to drink, with cellaring potential of at least a few decades. HK$2,388
Louis Roederer Brut Rosé 2008
The most common method to make rosé champagne is to blend red wine with white wine. Higher quality wines will use the saignée (bleeding) method. This involves red grapes and brief skin contact with the juice to add colour. The Roederer Rosé is made from a selection of pinot noir harvested at higher ripeness levels, and 30 per cent of the blend is made from chardonnay to add structure and acidity of the wine.
A beautiful, translucent, pale salmon colour. Delicate strawberry fruit. Medium body, elegant and well-balanced. HK$680
Louis Roederer Brut Premier NV
Brut Premier represents about 80 per cent of the firm's output and is a good introduction to the house style. Janneau says it is the most difficult wine to blend as consistency and quality have to be maintained every year. This blend is composed of 12 wines, with 40 per cent from the 2010 vintage, and the oldest from 2005.
Zesty lemon, apple and mineral notes. Refreshing acidity, with good fruit intensity and fairly long finish. Great for enjoying now. HK$480
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