Louis Roederer is a great Champagne house located in Rheims with great Champagnes across the board, but their superlative Cristal and Cristal Rose simply put them in rarified territory. These are vintage wines of great finesse, elegance, and delicacy, yet with plenty of flavor and lots of tiny little bubbles. Quite simply my favorite "finesse" and "elegance" Champagne!
It comes in its trademark clear bottles with yellow cellophane wrapping to keep out ultraviolet rays, and tastes perhaps surprisingly like it looks: clean, precise, and with great balance and extreme finesse.
Cristal was first produced for Russian Royalty, namely Tsar Alexander II, around 1870, and was the first prestige cuvee. It was a much sweeter wine at the time (as Champagnes all were back them), but it still tastes regal today! It's now popular among Rappers and the famous, many of whom are buffoons who follow trends, but many of whom no doubt really dig it! Hey guys and gals, let it age a decade or more (I prefer 15 years minimum) and it will be even much much better! That said, the 2002 Cristal rocked from day one!
It is approximately 45% Chardonnay and 55% Pinot Noir, although there is a slight variation from vintage to vintage, and all the grapes come from Roederer's own vineyards (mostly Grand Cru). Because the grapes are all sources from their own vineyards, they cannot produce a shitload (like Dom Perignon does for example), so its popularity can lead to shortages and of course high prices.
Some people claim they do not like Cristal that much, sometimes to the point saying they do not "get it." My friend Chuck fell into this category until he tried a bottle with some age on it, the 1990 in 2010, 20 years old. He gets it now! He also finds that strippers prefer it. To each their own: I personally find babysitters love it too.
Cristal often blows away the competition in side by side tasting, as recently it was the wine of the night when compared to Dom Perignon 85, Bollinger RD 82, La Grande Dame 90, and a few others. My very abbreviated 1990 Cristal tasting notes simply read "overall extreme sense of finesse + balance, clean and precise, tastes like it looks."
Cristal Rose is an interesting beast, very rare, and damn expensive. It is true to the Cristal essence of finesse and elegance. They first made it in 1974, and I've only tried the 1985 and 1988. Cristal Rose needs time to show its full potential, and I have yet to try an older one, but will easily keep for 20 years in great vintages.
Is Cristal worth it? It's expensive, can be hard to find, and really needs some age to show best. In my mind, absolutely yes!