Review: Louis Roederer Cristal Vertical Tasting

Louis Roederer Cristal is one of the world’s most sought after champagnes. Created 100 years after Louis Roederer was founded, its history is as renown as the champagne itself. In 1876, Russian Tsar Alexander II asked the producer to create a special cuvée for his personal use, which was unique in both its style and bottle design.

Dissatisfied with standard champagne bottles that concealed the beautiful colour and effervescence of champagne, Alexander II requested that his personal cuvée be bottled in transparent crystal glass bottles (hence, Cristal) with a flat bottom, to prevent would-be assassins from hiding explosives in the punt. Champagne’s first prestige cuvée, Louis Roederer Cristal, was officially born.


“A wine of pure pleasure and a sophisticated gastronomic wine, Cristal is both powerful and delicate, combining subtlety and precision” – Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon, Chef de Cave


The distinguished appearance remains relatively unchanged today but the winemaking process has evolved considerably. Only produced in the best years, Cristal comes from Roederer’s finest Grand Cru vineyards, in the villages of Avize, Aÿ, Beaumont-sur-Vesle, Cramant, Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, Verzenay, and Verzy.

Recently, Roederer has moved towards organic and biodynamic farming practices. Chef de Cave Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon, who has held the position since 1999, believes organically and biodynamically cultivated vines are stronger and give more fruit, freshness, and depth. Today, 85% of Cristal vines are farmed biodynamically; the target is 100% by 2020.


“The future will be organic and biodynamic” – Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon, Chef de Cave


With the recent release of Louis Roederer Cristal 2008 causing such a stir in both the trade and consumer markets, we decided to host a Louis Roederer Cristal Vertical Tasting and compare the eight vintages of Cristal released so far this century. We also included the two most recent Cristal Rosé releases: Cristal Rosé 2008 and Cristal Rosé 2009; and a magnum of Cristal 2006 for good measure.

The tasting was hosted by Mark Bingley MW, Fine Wine Director at Maisons Marques et Domaines (established by Champagne Louis Roederer in 1986). All eleven champagnes were original disgorgements and were tasted blind in a randomised order. They are presented below in the order tasted on the evening. All tasted notes are The Finest Bubble’s, scores shown are group averages.


Tasting Notes

The first pair of champagnes are always the most difficult to distinguish; even more so on this occasion considering the vintages they turned out to be. The first, Cristal 2005, originates from a year without significantly distinctive characteristics. Those who managed to identify it on the evening confessed to having done so by eliminating the other vintages, rather than noticing anything particularly reminiscent of 2005.

The second, Cristal 2009, is still incredibly young. Quite tight and lean at present, it doesn’t give away much – the fresh acidity led many to believe it might be 2008.


Louis Roederer Cristal 2005 | 17.6/20
55% PN, 45% CH | Lees Ageing: 6 Years | Disgorged: 2012 | Dosage: 9 g/l | Post-Disgorgement Ageing: 6 Years
Nice and youthful fruit with lots of pear and apples. Rich and soft texture with apricots, some nuts and a distinct coffee character.
Louis Roederer Cristal 2009 | 17.7/20
60% PN, 40% CH | Lees Ageing: 6 Years | Disgorged: 2016 | Dosage: 8 g/l | Post-Disgorgement Ageing: 2 Years
Nice clean and fresh fruit. Quite tight and lean at present with fresh acidity. Is this the 2008?


Onto the second pair and there was a much clearer distinction between the two champagnes, owing largely to the difference in maturity. Disgorged back in 2007, the original disgorgement Cristal 2002 has aged for eight years longer in bottle than Cristal 2007. Although still retaining all the delicious freshness characteristic of the legendary vintage, Cristal 2002 undeniably shows some age when pitched against the much younger Cristal 2007.


Louis Roederer Cristal 2007 | 18.5/20
60% PN, 40% CH | Lees Ageing: 7 Years | Disgorged: 2015 | Dosage: 8 g/l | Post-Disgorgement Ageing: 3 Years
Lots of peaches, apricots and apples. Nice and ripe. Good balance. Nothing really distinctive so hard to pick a vintage character. Lots of peach and pineapple so a warmer year. Acidity seems ok, is this 2007?
Louis Roederer Cristal 2002 | 18.5/20
55% PN, 45% CH | Lees Ageing: 4 Years | Disgorged: 2007 | Dosage: 10 g/l | Post-Disgorgement Ageing: 11 Years
Has some maturity signs initially with a great mouthfeel. Some tropicalness and nice freshness. Is this the 2002 or could it be the 2004?

Cristal is the prestige cuvée of Louis Roederer



All Cristal vineyards will be organically and biodynamically farmed by 2020



The intimate Lutyens Room at 67 Pall Mall



Cristal 2006 Magnum: power, freshness and texture


Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon, Louis Roederer Chef de Cave since 1999



New Cristal 2008 is already considered one of the greatest ever vintages



New Cristal Rosé 2008 has been rated 100/100 by Essi Avellan MW

Our third pairing offered a chance to compare the same champagne from bottle and magnum. With the exact same disgorgement dates, and therefore the same lees ageing and bottle ageing, there were few extraneous variables (other than bottle size) that could have caused any difference between Cristal 2006 from bottle and Cristal 2006 from magnum.

Although they both had similarly fresh fruit characteristics and a delicate texture, the magnum clearly had a more youthful personality. Bingley explained that magnums age much slower than bottles due to differences in the process of autolysis (the breakdown of lees), and because a greater volume of champagne is exposed to the same amount of oxygen (more details here). Science aside, the taste experience is clear: magnums offer a unique level of complexity and intrigue, and the Cristal 2006 Magnum was the preferred glass on the evening.


Louis Roederer Cristal 2006 | 18.1/20
55% PN, 45% CH | Lees Ageing: 7 Years | Disgorged: 2014 | Dosage: 8 g/l | Post-Disgorgement Ageing: 4 Years
Has some nice fruit character, freshness and lees character. Loads of ripe lemons and pineapple and great length.
Louis Roederer Cristal 2006 Magnum | 18.6/20
55% PN, 45% CH | Lees Ageing: 7 Years | Disgorged: 2014 | Dosage: 8 g/l | Post-Disgorgement Ageing: 4 Years
Beautiful lemons and apricots. Great power, freshness and lovely texture. Is this the magnum of 2006?


The final flight of Cristal blancs had both the oldest and most recently released vintages of the evening: Cristal 2000 and Cristal 2008. Perhaps unsurprisingly, new Cristal 2008 – described by Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon as “the most Cristal of all Cristals” – was the star. Considering how well it is tasing just a few months post-disgorgement, it is astonishing to think what a future this champagne has ahead of it. One of the all-time greatest Louis Roederer Cristals.

The surprise champagne of the night was Cristal 2004. A vintage that receives little attention these days, 2004 is really starting to sing and showed tremendously on the night. With all the creamy character that Cristal is famous for, Cristal 2000 is only now starting to show some maturity – a testament to the ageability of this prestige cuvée.


Louis Roederer Cristal 2008 | 19.3/20
60% PN, 40% CH | Lees Ageing: 9 Years | Disgorged: 2018 | Dosage: 8 g/l | Post-Disgorgement Ageing: 8 Months
Lots of banana character. Ripe and fresh. Very creamy and more tropical flavours than others.
Louis Roederer Cristal 2004 | 18.9/20
55% PN, 45% CH | Lees Ageing: 5 Years | Disgorged: 2010 | Dosage: 8 g/l | Post-Disgorgement Ageing: 8 Years
Lots of fresh lemons, lime, guava and on the palate hints of gooseberry and masses of pineapple.
Louis Roederer Cristal 2000 | 18.1/20
55% PN, 45% CH | Lees Ageing: 6 Years | Disgorged: 2007 | Dosage: 10 g/l | Post-Disgorgement Ageing: 11 Years
Lots of creamy character and wow some nice texture on the palate. Definitely some age showing. Good balance and pineapple flavours.


To conclude, we tasted the latest vintages of Cristal Rosé. First produced in 1974, Cristal Rosé commands even more prestige than Cristal – often coming up trumps in sparkling wine competitions the world over. First produced in 1974, the delicate colour comes from the carefully controlled saignée method, which takes place after a cold maceration.

There wasn’t much between the two champagnes on the night. Perhaps Cristal Rosé 2008 is a bit lighter and more delicate than Cristal Rosé 2009, but both show outstanding power of fruit and are still so incredibly young – nowhere near their full potential yet.


Louis Roederer Cristal Rosé 2009 | 18.4/20
55% PN, 45% CH | Lees Ageing: 6 Years | Disgorged: 2016 | Dosage: 9 g/l | Post-Disgorgement Ageing: 2 Years
Lots of lovely ripe raspberry and strawberry. Hints of rhubarb, lemons, peaches and loveliness. Wow, what power on the fruit.
Louis Roederer Cristal Rosé 2008 | 18.4/20
56% PN, 44% CH | Lees Ageing: 8 Years | Disgorged: 2017 | Dosage: 9 g/l | Post-Disgorgement Ageing: 1 Year
Lots of cherry, lemon and ripe apples. Seems softer than previous rosé.


Overall, it was an exceptional evening of discovery. The standout lesson was as always – buy from magnum!, but this tasting also offered insight into the value of opening champagne a few hours before tasting. Our host, Mark Bingley, noted how the champagnes had opened up considerably during the tasting as compared to when they were tasted for quality control two hours previously. If you have the time (and the patience), consider opening your champagne a few hours before you plan on drinking it – you may be quite surprised at just how different the experience is.



Whilst scoring champagne is a worthwhile exercise to determine personal favourites, ranking champagnes of this stature is a somewhat arbitrary process that inevitably reveals more about individual preferences rather than distinguishing good from bad. Notably, the point differential between the lowest and highest scored champagnes was just 1.7/20.

That said, the table below shows the order of rank on the evening. Brand new Louis Roederer Cristal 2008 came out  on top, with an astonishing average score of 19.3/20. The overall group average score for every champagne tasted was an impressive 18.4/20, a testament to the consistent supremacy of Louis Roederer Cristal.


Group Average Scores | Average Overall: 18.4/20
Rank Score Champagne
1 19.3 Louis Roederer Cristal 2008
2 18.9 Louis Roederer Cristal 2004
3 18.6 Louis Roederer Cristal 2006 Magnum
4 18.5 Louis Roederer Cristal 2007
= 18.5 Louis Roederer Cristal 2002
6 18.4 Louis Roederer Cristal Rosé 2009
= 18.4 Louis Roederer Cristal Rosé 2008
8 18.1 Louis Roederer Cristal 2006
= 18.1 Louis Roederer Cristal 2000
10 17.7 Louis Roederer Cristal 2009
11 17.6 Louis Roederer Cristal 2005

What will the rest of the century have in store for Louis Roederer Cristal?