Champagne Louis Roederer has unveiled its latest vintage of Cristal, which hails from 2014. According to chef de caves Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon, it was a “year of clear extremes.”
“2014 was one of those years with clear extremes,” Lécaillon said. “We had a beautiful, dry, continental spring; we had a very oceanic summer with lots of rain, twice as much as usual, mainly in the Côte des Blancs and the Vallée de la Marne, much less rain in the Montagne de Reims. Then we had this beautiful September which changed everything. Finally, thanks to beautiful weather at the end of August and all of September we had a real summer and we had ripeness.
“It was important to pick as late as possible to benefit from the sunshine of the last moment. North-easterly winds dried the atmosphere, so we had beautiful concentration of flavours which we waited for. We delayed harvest and picked Cristal as late as possible: we wanted the extra concentration, the extra ripeness, the extra dry extract that is so important for the texture of Cristal.
“Alcohol levels were perfect, more than 11% for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, so no chaptalisation, just natural balance that goes through fermentation. Then of course no malolactic fermentation because we had ripe balance and I wanted to keep as much freshness and energy from the malic acid.”
Lécaillon noted that 32% of the wine had been fermented in oak, and that the traditional composition of 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay had been kept – as a reflection of the planting of the estate which has roughly this varietal split. “In 2014,” he said, “out of the 45 [dedicated] plots, only 39 made Cristal, we eliminated three plots in Aÿ and three in Avize that were not up to our expectations.” He then summed up the wine: “In 2014, we have lots of everything: proteins, organic acids, dry extract, phenolics. Together with a low pH – we are at 3.0 – everything is built for ageing. 2014 catches this extreme dry extract with extreme freshness. I think this is a vintage of energy and of intensity.”
Cristal 2014 is marked by “lots of chalk and lots of Montagne de Reims,” said Lécaillon. He called it “a year of chalk,” noting that “chalk is the essence of Cristal,” pointing out that the Cristal plots are located on “chalky ridges”, where sloping vineyards feature this white bedrock at just one meter below the surface. He added that it takes at least 20 years for the vine to root deeply into this layer of chalk, which is why Roederer only takes bunches from vines that are a minimum of 20 years old when making Cristal.
“For the first time,” Lécaillon used the process of ‘jetting’ when disgorging and corking Cristal 2014. The technique ensures any oxygen in the headspace of the bottle is expelled before the cork is inserted. He did so because the expressive nature of the vintage needed “shutting down”, comparing it to a “strong” and “gifted child” who needed to be “restrained.”
He also said that organic farming practices had increased the “precision” of Cristal, giving it more “definition” than previous releases, commenting that the 2014 “has a bit more pixels than in 2012” – the first Roederer Cristal vintage to be made from 100% biodynamically farmed grapes.
“In the past Cristal was lean and discrete when it was young, and would develop with time, but thanks to organic farming and what we do in the winemaking, it is much more delicious when young, it has more texture, without touching the aging potential,” he said, before concluding, “We have increased it.”
Cristal 2014 features a dosage of 7 grams per liter and a retail price of around £275 per 75cl bottle.
For more information, head over to Louis Roederer’s official website.