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Liquid Gold: seven vintages of Cristal Champagne – drunk, not just tasted!

The occasion was a dinner at the Hotel Particulier in Reims, the Roederer family home, in May 2016, hosted by Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon, winemaker and executive vice president

of Champagne Louis Roederer. Dinner, thank goodness, means drinking not just tasting.

For the full menu, see below. For more on the Roederer philosophy and practice, see my blog The Golden Age of Champagne

Roederer Cristal 2009

Disgorged October 2015. Dosage 8g/l. 60% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay. To be released in July 2016 (with a slightly changed – refreshed – label). Served in a large white burgundy glass. .

First impression: the striking richness and depth of ripe fruit. The flavours expand on the palate, there’s a fleshiness and then the acidity appears, pulling everything taut and bright from underneath, and with the acidity comes a characteristic chalkiness. It may not be quite as long lived as 2002 ultimately but it's going to give huge pleasure from the outset.

Roederer Cristal 2007

57% Pinot Noir, 43% Chardonnay. Served in a smaller white wine glass.

Less luscious than the 2009, but elegant and racy with apple-pear fruit and a savoury, nutty and delicately spicy character underpinned by acidity. Opens up in the glass.

Roederer Cristal 2002

Disgorged 2009. Dosage 9g/l. 60% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay. All 45 potential Cristal parcels were used in the blend. The only other time in 28 vintages at Roederer that Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon has used all 45 is in 2015. From a magnum. Served in a large glass.

Nose of richness and intensity. Waves of brioche and truffles; intense, precise fruit in the apricot-peach spectrum; dazzling freshness; touches of hazelnut and roasting coffee beans. The palate is billowing in feel, layered with flavour and stretches on and on, corseted by crystalline (unavoidable pun) acidity. Exceptional.

Roederer Cristal 1995

A ‘ten-ten’ – ten years on lees, ten years post disgorgement, a ratio that Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon thinks is ideal. Dosage 6g/l, which is lower than for the original disgorgement. To be released in 2017. Served in a smaller glass.

Fine-boned, architectural, yet sumptuous, with honey, apricot and orange and biscuity, nutty notes offset by an energizing, chalky minerality and flowing, soft acidity. Exceptional.

Roederer Cristal 1979

Disgorged early 2007. Dosage 14g/l (yes, that's the correct figure). A late harvest (October) with low yields.

Bright old-gold colour. Deeply umami mature notes – mushroom, truffle and roast meat ¬ but still effortlessly fresh, with apricot, orange pomander, incense and pain d’epices all coming through on nose and palate. Honeyed intensity, great purity and length, sweetness on the finish. Exceptional.

Roederer Cristal Rosé 2007

56% Pinot Noir, 44% Chardonnay. Saignée method (as for all Roederer rosés). Served with cheese.

Riper and more generous than the white 2007, with fleshy, sweet red berry and orange fruit, spice and toast, balanced by some of the chalkiness and briny notes of white Cristal. Lively and sustained, with a decade and more to go.

Roederer Cristal Rosé 1995

70% Pinot Noir (from Ay) 30% Chardonnay. Saignée method. A ‘ten-ten’ – ten years on lees, ten years post disgorgement. Served with cheese.

Pink-tinged gold colour. Opulent, ripe, lush aromas of rose petals and strawberries sunk into crème brûlée and lightly toasted nuts surrounding a wine (and this is a very vinous Champagne) of structure, substance and concentration. Still, impeccably fresh. Exceptional.

All photographs by Joanna Simon

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