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Cristal et al

IMG00059-20090803-2042Champagne is something Majestic does well.

With such a comprehensive range both online and in-store, it’s great to be able to give guidance and recommendations, thanks in part to having had the opportunity to try the Champagnes in advance.

Such an opportunity presented itself this week when 30 Majestic staff were invited to an exclusive tasting of Louis Roederer Champagnes organised by Clayton, our Fine Wine manager.

IMG00066-20090803-2046Further to the Krug vs. Dom Perignon and Bollinger posts, this was definitely worth a write up.

Held at the Fine Wine Centre in St John’s Wood, seven unique Roederer Champagnes were presented by Charles Taverner of MMD Ltd, to an eagerly expectant audience.

As you can imagine, a room full of Majestic experts made for much critical discussion and diverse opinion.

IMG00060-20090803-2043Majestic big green chiller bins brimmed and the scene was set for an epic tasting – here’s a summarised version of my take on the range.

Roederer’s non-vintage style is fantastic. As elegant as Perrier Jouet NV, but with a similar weight and intensity to some Champagne houses’ vintage cuvee, the Roederer Brut Premier NV is wonderfully rich, fat and honeyed.

It’s got a really broad, breaded palate with a fantastically round mouth-feel and the acidity, when combined with that famous mousse, is elegant and refreshing. One fifth Pinot Meunier and two fifths each of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay present you with the best attributes of all the grape varieties – body, acidity and character – and what a great colour…

IMG00075-20090803-2211For a general blanc de blanc skeptic, Roederer’s vintage Blanc de Blanc 2003 was a pleasant surprise. Lighter lemon in colour, the 100% chardonnay was fresh but the acidity was (thankfully) restrained– with elegant fruit that sat somewhere between lemon and lime. With 8-10 g/l of residual sugar, it was certainly brut in style, but more sophisticated and less harsh than so many examples.

By the time we got to Brut Vintage 2003, the Roederer house style had become very apparent, best described as elegant yet powerful. As you’d expect, the vintage was much more yeasty and autolytic, though a surprisingly pale yellow colour. Really opulent and expressive, the palate was refined and light with a homely baked apple feel. Charles described this as a ‘mini-cristal’ – since they didn’t make a 2003 Cristal, all the fruit that would have been used to make it ended up in the vintage blend instead. Talk about quality…

IMG00077-20090803-2212The Brut Vintage Rose 2004 was up next. To look at, its gently bled, light pink hue defied the 70/30 weighting of Pinot Noir to Chardonnay. The breaded nose and weighty palate restored order, however. Only very lightly autolytic, it was the crispest and most direct style of Roederer in the range and its mousse combined well with a great rush of clean acidity to really push through the fresh summer fruits.

A great hush descended when the first of the two Cristal vintages was unveiled. Cristal Brut 2002 was worth the wait. I can’t really begin to make prose out of my erratic, reactive notes so I’ll quote them directly:

‘Hugely complex, fresh nose. Caramel & toffee – faint. Concentrated. White fruit. Creamy coconut quality – probably due to the 5 years ageing. Nose knocks you back. Really fresh, its only a baby. Lighter mousse accentuates complexity. Fruit and age fighting furiously. Changes every time you smell it. Woah.’

An impressive start. Forget Jay-Z and the rap star connotations. Cristal is a real treasure that doesn’t deserve its somewhat negating bling reputation. Rather than shout its attributes, it invites you to discover them, gently and thoughtfully. It’s amazing to think that the winemakers can foresee just how special this blend is going to be when it’s assembled. Absolutely top drawer.

Same story for Cristal Brut 2000:IMG00076-20090803-2212

‘Wow… A few years extra bottle age really shows. Carameled, toasted, yeasty, strangely smoky character. The fruit is pale citrus, warm and inviting. Still fresh but diverse palate is light and complex. Acidity really tingles across the palate. Creamy. So balanced, so round but with a sporadic buzz. Such a broad spectrum of colours and flavours with acidity that will be amazing in just a few more years….’

You get the idea. This is not an advert.

After such a ringing endorsement and honest recommendation, I’d advise those who wonder what all the fuss is about when it comes to Champagne to trade up to Roederer and find out for themselves.

Some of the mentioned Champagnes are available on the website, though it’s definitely worth getting in contact with your local store manager who should be able to help you locate the ones that aren’t.

This tasting changed my viewpoint on the relative worth of prestige cuvee Champagne, though it re-inforced my belief that too many Champagnes are released to the market far too early and are drunk before they’ve revealed their fullest depths of complexity.

Take my advice, buy a few bottles of Cristal and put them under the stairs for long enough that you’ve forgotten they’re even there. The day you remember will be one of the happiest of your life.

IMG00064-20090803-2044

Oh, and a special mention for Clay’s fruit platter. As fruit goes, it was stunning: 10/10.

6 thoughts on “Cristal et al

  1. John, I can’t tell you how jealous I am reading of what was obviously an amazing evening of Champagne tasting. The Cristal does sound absolutely amazing, but what I am most pleased about is how well you rated the Non Vintage.

    Non Vintage is a great way to get the general non wine nerdy crowd interested in Champagne but for that passion to really expand into something bigger the NV needs to be good, and the Roederer sounding so good, this definitely sounds like one to tickle those tasting buds

  2. Pingback: Cristal et al by John Abbott : I Love Shoes & Wine
  3. Great blog. I am a great fan of Majestic.

    Any chance of arranging a completely and absolutely blind tasting some time? It is easy to be influenced by what one sees as well as tastes. If you go to a tasting and see one bottle’s label as Petrus 1990 and the next as Hardy’s, I believe you cannot possibly avoid being influenced before you even sniff the wine let alone taste it

      1. Thanks Emma. I’ll stop by and have a chat with the team. What I love about Majestic is the enthusiasm and lack of snobbery, and I know from my experiences with wine that part of the fun is discovering new tastes and flavours. It is too easy to get stuck in one’s ways, making assumptions – several of which can be expensive mistakes. The assumption might be that only expensive well-known French names are great, or that only Australian wines are full of fruit and best value, or that anything with less than 87 on the Parker Scale is no good, but these assumptions all have the same effect.

        Maybe we could fix up something like a “Pinot Noir” or “Sauvignon Blanc” evening (or day) and do a head-to-head blind tasting of several of what Majestic has on offer without anyone (including the staff) knowing the slightest detail of what we are tasting until after the event and tasting notes have been collated. It could be very educational and would do your sales no harm. Many other wine resellers I know have too much baggage pushing what they have in stock or import contractually, so they sell almost unseen as well as untasted. Then of course there is the joker card of Parker points which certainly do not always tie up for me.

  4. I know Charles quite well, and regardless of his exemplary sales skills (the old warhorse) the wines he promotes are always top notch. I have always taken his advice, but only on wine!

    Nice blog too.

    Saluti!

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