Louis Roederer’s Cristal boasts the renowned flat-bottomed ‘crystal’ bottle, covered in an anti-UV cellophane wrapper. The gold label was created in 1876 for Alexander II of Russia and is considered to be the first ever prestige cuvee. Fearing assassination, the Tsar asked (read: ordered) that the Champagne bottles for his ‘Three Emperors’ dinner be made clear, so he could see the bubbles and a flat bottom to prevent a bomb being hidden in it: the result was Cristal. Cristal only produces 25,000 to 32,000 cases, or 300,000 to 400,000 bottles per vintage.

Cristal exhibits wonderful complexity of flavour, magnificent concentration of fruit and a wonderfully balanced finish that continues for over a minute; it also improves for decades in bottle and is at its most precocious after 20-25 years. Cristal therefore has an unusual position in the market; it is considered by Champagne drinkers and critics to be the acme of prestige Champagne, selling out to collectors quickly, yet also rides the crest of ostentatious revelry, taking pride of place in nightclubs and bars around the world.

The quality of Louis Roederer’s Cristal extends to their Premier Brut NV, which in turn is one of the foremost non-vintage Champagnes. Antonio Galloni’s website Vinous describes it as ‘consistently among the very best big-house “basic” NV Champagnes’. We agree, it is exceptionally well made and offers the kind of refined flavours and mousse you would expect from a more expensive vintage Champagne.

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