In the summer of 2018, the release of Louis Roederer Cristal 2008 caused a media frenzy. Cellar master Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon described it as “the most Cristal of all Cristals” and demand rightly soared. Prices rocketed in response and for a while it was the only champagne anyone seemed interested in.
Of course, the market finally settled and now, 18 months on, we welcome the next instalments in the Cristal collection: Cristal 2012 and Cristal Rosé 2012. With eight releases so far this century (2000, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009), the jump from 2009 to 2012 is the first time Louis Roederer have skipped two consecutive vintages in Cristal production since Cristal 1990 transitioned directly to Cristal 1993.
For Lécaillon, Cristal 2012 marks “the next chapter.” After more than a decade of steadily transforming the vineyards to biodynamic farming methods, 2012 was the year in which Louis Roederer went “full speed on biodynamics”, finally converting all 45 parcels that make up the ‘Cristal Estate’ to biodynamic farming methods. Cristal 2012 is therefore the first 100% biodynamically farmed Cristal vintage. “We changed our viticulture, which will speak with time … we will see the wine showing its multilayered dimension,” Lécaillon told us during a visit to the house earlier this year.
Louis Roederer aim to “create a complicity with nature”, which is reflected in their respectful vineyard practices; such as massal selection, gentle pruning, allowing the land to lie fallow, and the use of biodynamic composts inspired by permaculture in which the ecosystem adjusts its balance.
“2012 is the next chapter. We changed our viticulture, which will speak with time… we will see the wine showing its multilayered dimension” – Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon, Chef de Cave
For Cristal Rosé, the biodynamic conversion took place even earlier, meaning that Cristal Rosé 2012 is already the fourth 100% biodyanmically farmed vintage. Produced in just 10% of the quantity of Cristal blanc, the four parcels that constitute the Cristal Rosé Estate – Goutte d’Or and Villers in Aÿ for the Pinot Noir and Montmartin in Le Mesnil-sur-Oger for the Chardonnay – have been 100% biodynamic since 2007.
During our visit this summer, Lécaillon spoke of how he has been paying close attention to the colour of Cristal Rosé, which has reduced in intensity in recent years. Cristal Rosé 2012 has a lighter, more salmon pink hue than Cristal Rosé 2008. The palate, by contrast, is more concentrated, displaying an added Pinot ripeness and texture over the 2008.
Though dosage is Lécaillon’s least favourite topic of discussion, he also revealed that both new releases have “the lowest dosage ever”; 7 g/l for Cristal 2012 and 8 g/l for Cristal Rosé 2012. We tasted both with Lécaillon alongside the previous release and – whether it is the biodynamic effect or not (just 40% of the Cristal parcels were farmed biodynamically in 2008) – were struck by the difference in personality between Cristal 2012 and Cristal 2008. Cristal 2008 was very closed at launch and, while Cristal 2012 is clearly still just a baby, it has a more approachable, palatable texture than its predecessor.
The vintage influence is of course not to be overlooked: 2012 was a warm year, 2008 a cold year. More post-disgorgement time will be necessary before any credible comparison can be made, but Cristal 2012 is at least as exciting a prospect as Cristal 2008 was upon release 18 moths ago, if not more. A mere glance at the press reviews below show that the critics, it seems, agree.
The result of over 10 years of reflection and experimentation, Cristal 2012 is the first-born from this new ear of complete biodynamic viticulture. Both Cristal 2012 and Cristal Rosé 2012 are available to purchase now.
|Louis Roederer Cristal 2012 | 19/20
60% PN, 40% CH | Lees Ageing: 6 Years | Disgorged: March 2019 | Post-Disgorgement Ageing: 3 Months | Dosage: 7 g/l
This has richness, ripeness and a slight fatness right now and the texture is right up there. The 2008 was very tight and precise at launch and this is similar; I feel this is a little more approachable as the texture is again very intriguing in this Cristal. Has a lot of power of fruit – fresh crunchy ripe apples and richer fruits like pineapple and many tropical suggestions coming out. This champagne has real enthusiasm and freshness and is a great sparring partner for the 2008. Will look forward to a re-taste with more post-disgorgement time. Drink now to mid 2030s.
|Louis Roederer Cristal Rosé 2012 | 19.5/20
60% PN, 40% CH | Lees Ageing: 6 Years | Disgorged: January 2019 | Post-Disgorgement Ageing: 6 Months | Dosage: 8 g/l
You would think the 2008 is a hard act to follow, but this youngster is showing off its class. You can see the youthfulness that is so charming, the power of the fruit, the yellow fruit is right in up front and then you start to see some of those soft red berry fruits. Fresh and almost toasty this champagne is very fine, the texture is surprisingly powerful considering this has 3 years less lees ageing than 2008 – bright acidity, but softer than 2008. At present you see more of the minerality on the 2012 (vs 2008) which is having more of a chalky phase right now. Very good, it is really hard to rate them different, this would appear to be showing very ready right now, but I am sure we will see it close down in a year or so to emerge again a few years later. I wonder if this will be one of those vintages we come back to in 20 years and won’t be able to believe how well it has matured. Drink 2020 to at least mid-2030s.
|Louis Roederer Cristal 2012|
| Jancis Robinson MW | 19/20
Rich and ripe, like 2002. Pungent nose – straight up the nose. Gorgeous and seductive. Complex and embroidered. Already lovely. The next chapter – all viticulture.
|Essi Avellan MW | 94-98/100
2012 marks the very first Cristal fully crafted from biodynamically farmed fruit. This difficult growing season managed to turn the challenges into assets. It resulted in a deeply fruity, Pinot driven Cristal that is exceptionally expressive already upon launch. The ripe, sweetly fruity aromatics come with bright red apple and baked apricot hints and even some tropical fruit notes. It feels slightly more Pinot driven that what the 60% share would suggest and Pinot indeed was the years best performer, excelling to chef de cave Lécaillon like no other since 1990. The rounded palate goes hand in hand with the soft nose generating a beautifully textured palate that turns refreshingly saline towards the very finish. Despite its early generosity, no doubt a Cristal built to last.
|Antonio Galloni | 98/100
The 2012 Cristal is another absolutely stellar wine this flight of recent releases. Rich, vinous and beautifully textured, the 2012 has been nothing short of magnificent on the three occasions I have tasted it so far. In the glass, the 2012 is radiant and luscious, yet it possesses remarkable transparency and striking aromatic depth. Light tropical notes develop in the glass, giving the 2012 a real feeling of exotic beauty. The 2012 is the first vintage of Cristal done with 100% organically-farmed fruit, an approach introduced gradually starting with the 2007 that has profoundly changes Cristal, especially in its aromatic breadth. Two thousand twelve is the vintage where endless trials and experiments in farming and winemaking are fully realized. The 2012 is just stunning. It’s as simple as that. Dosage is just over 7 grams per liter, the lowest it has ever been for Cristal.
|Louis Roederer Cristal Rosé 2012|
|Jancis Robinson MW | 18.5/20
Paler than the 2008 rosé. Straight up the nose with raciness and transparency. Some Riesling energy! Long and hugely impressive. Lowest dosage ever. Great stuff. Tastes sweet and already flirtatious.
|Essi Avellan MW | 97-100/100
Already upon launch this rosé shows rare harmony and seamlessness. It is opulently fruity and exuberantly Pinot-packed yet at the same time seductively silky-textured. The voluminous palate is perfectly integrated to the wine’s superb freshness that carries it to a great length. Structured whilst soft and comes with Cristal Rosé’s hallmark elegance and radiance. Highly enjoyable already but with great long-term ageing capacity. A perfect reflection of the vintage’s best qualities.
|Antonio Galloni | 98+/100
The 2012 Cristal Rosé is magnificent. When Chef de Caves Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon started to move Roederer towards organically farmed fruit, he started with Cristal Rosé, Roederer’s smallest production cuveé. Because of that, Cristal Rosé is the wine in this range that shows the current Roederer style in its fullest expression. Rich, vivid and crystalline in the glass, the 2012 Cristal Rosé is a Champagne of tremendous gravitas. Chalk, white flowers, sweet red berry fruit, mint and blood orange are all beautifully delineated. The 2012 is 55% Pinot from Ay and 45% Chardonnay from Mesnil and Avize. The Pinot fruit gets a 7-10 day cold soak an is the infused into the fermenting Chardonnay musts. Readers who can find the 2012 should not hesitate, as it is truly magical. Dosage is 8 grams per liter.