Episode 94 – the launch of 2014 Louis Roederer Cristal
2nd February 2022
Tasted on Zoom with Louis Roederer Chef de Cave Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon on Monday 31st January.
2014 Louis Roederer, Cristal, Champagne, France (RRP £250.00, www.harrods.com, www.thefinestbubble.com, www.selfridges.com, www.hedonism.co.uk and it is soon to arrive in Waitrose and Majestic, too).
First the facts – one third of the grapes come from each of these three zones – La Rivière, La Montagne and La Côte, and 39 individual plots situated in the famous villages of Verzenay, Verzy, Beaumont-sur-Vesle, Aÿ, Avize, Mesnil-sur-Oger and Cramant. All of the fruit was farmed organically in 2014, and certification was gained in 2021. The blend is 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay, and 32% was fermented in oak barrels. There was no malolactic fermentation permitted, and the dosage is 7g/L.
Chef de Cave Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon explained that ‘Cristal is a wine of the soil and not of vintage’. He explained that it is a ‘story of chalk’. I always love how French winemakers use elaborate and original vocabulary to bring their wines alive and he continued saying that the ‘oceanic’ summer (rainy), with twice the normal amount of precipitation, gave way to lovely August and September and this saved the vintage. The pickers harvested as late as possible in the season, in dry conditions with lovely sunshine. They started on 20th September and moved extremely quickly, bringing in the crop in just seven days. JBL mentioned that the ripeness of the grapes was perfect at 11% potential alcohol and this meant that no chaptalisation was needed. No malolactic fermentation was used either because they had the right balance of sugar and acid and this meant that JBL managed to retain as much life-giving acidity (3.0 pH) as possible.
In terms of flavour, while chalk is most definitely the essence of this wine and oak, according to JBL, gives a more attenuated flavour profile, it is the incredible lemony colour that initially draws one in. There is a lot more gold on the label and on the ‘cellophane’ wrap than in the glass! And it might seem rather facile to write about the bubbles, but here we go! I rarely mention bubbles in any of my scribblings because I assume that it is common knowledge that fine bubbles are a pre-requisite for a top-class wine but you must know that the bubbles here are minuscule and utterly spellbinding. I have tried to capture them in my photo, but I have failed miserably.
This is an expressive wine with energy and mouth-watering salinity and, like the 2012, it errs on the side of freshness and finesse. This is not as grand nor as imposing a wine as the 2013 (see my review in WW), but it is a detailed creation and JBL used a rather evocative expression to explain this. He said that there are more ‘pixels’ of flavour in 2014 than usual. I think this visual reference works for me, especially considering the unique hue and the extraordinary bubbles. When you isolate the flavour, the palate is refined, long and dry, and I cannot remember a wine with such pronounced chalkiness on the finish. A day later, I picked up a fleshier mid-palate, too, which is most likely a result of the enthusiastic dosage, and after 24 hours the finish seemed harmonious and less mineral-soaked. All of this adds up to an extremely impressive wine with a forward air, and a backbone of acidity that will keep it upright and dynamic for a good twenty-five or so years. 19/20 (Drink 2025 – 2050)