Robert Parker 98
I’ve revisited Roederer’s 2013 Cristal four times since I reviewed it in April of this year—including several times from my own cellar—and I had to admit that even my lavish praise didn’t do it full justice. Combining the cool-vintage cut of 2008 with the more completely mature fruit of 2012, the 2013 Cristal might well be said to represent the perfect combination of the two from a purist’s perspective. The wine unwinds in the glass with notes of crisp orchard fruit, white flowers, almond paste and citrus oil, followed by a medium to full-bodied, seamless and multidimensional palate that’s intense but weightless, with racy acids, a pinpoint mousse and a long, penetrating finish. Drink the 2008 Cristal on its own, and you’re unlikely—to put it mildly—to have any complaints; but compare it directly with the 2013 and you’ll see Roederer’s rapid progress in the vineyards writ large.
Anticipated maturity: 2025-2060
Disgorged in 2020, dosage 8 g/l. 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay, 32% of the cuvée is fermented in oak. Six and a half years spent on lees. Very challenging in the vineyard. A very late year, spring arrived especially late. Lots of sunshine but a very high acid level, emphasised by Louis Roederer’s non-malo policy. The oak proportion in this wine is relatively high because Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon is aiming for a dry finish which helps ‘stretch the impact of the wine on the palate’. Biodynamic fruit means the fruit can take more oak because it’s so concentrated. Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon loves this wine, calling it ‘the essence of Cristal’. Very fresh. Very tight on the nose. Extremely youthful and tense. Needs to unfurl. Tight and dry on the end. Long but embryonic. Lots of citrus elements. Elegant.
Anticipated maturity: 2022-2036
James Suckling 98
This is quite chalky with firm phenolics that frame the wine beautifully. It’s medium-to full-bodied with strawberries and earth. Dense, linear and intense. Hints of brioche and pie crust at the end. Very structured and gorgeous. Salty and lightly chewy. One third of the base wines fermented and aged in oak. Connoisseur Champagne. From organic vineyards of the Roederer domains. Smaller production than normal. Seven years on the lees. Give it two or three years to open.
The 2013 Cristal is a wine of extraordinary precision and tension. Searing acids drive a bold, racy Champagne that won’t be ready to offer its best drinking anytime soon. In recent vintages, Cristal has been quite open on release. That is far from the case with the 2013. Readers should plan on being quite patient. The blend is 60% Pinot Noir (from Aÿ, Verzy, Verzenay, Beaumont-sur-Vesle) and 40% Chardonnay (Mesnil, Avize, Cramant). Chef de Caves Jean-Baptiste Lecaillon was especially selective and used only 30 out of the potential 45 plots that are typically available for Cristal. About 32% of the lots were done in oak, the rest in steel, with the malolactic fermentation blocked across the board. It was an October harvest, the sort of harvest that has become increasingly rare in Champagne. Lecaillon describes the summer as similar to 2012, but adds the vines were a month behind in their development. In tasting, the 2013 reminds me of the 1996 in its austerity, even more so than the epic 2008. (Originally published in May 2021)
Anticipated maturity: 2028-2053