Cristal brut is normally drawn from a maximum of 45 grand cru vineyard plots, but the 2018 vintage will represent 57 sites owned by Champagne Louis Roederer, said Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon, chef de caves and executive vice-president at the group.
Lécaillon said it was the first time more than 45 plots have been used during his 20-year tenure as cellar master and he described 2018 as the best Champagne vintage he has seen. He has spent 30 harvests at Roederer.
He said fans can expect ‘a unique Cristal’ from 2018, following several years of ageing in cellars beneath Reims. Production could hit record levels, although the house did not specify figures.
Extra plots in 2018 include Chardonnay sites that would normally be reserved for Roederer’s vintage Blanc de Blancs. They will sit alongside Cristal stalwarts, such as Pinot Noir from Verzenay.
As a result, Cristal 2018 will include around 43% Chardonnay, a slightly higher proportion than usual. The 2008 vintage, currently on release, is 40% Chardonnay and 60% Pinot Noir.
‘This year I did the 45 plots and they were perfect,’ said Lécaillon, during a tasting of 2018 vintage ‘vins clairs’ – base wines to be used in Cristal and other Roederer Champagnes.
Lécaillon said that only Cristal 2002 and 2015 have previously used all 45 of the designated vineyard sites, which are farmed biodynamically.
‘The problem I had [in 2018] is that some other plots were also perfect. We had a long discussion with [Roederer CEO and co-owner] Frédéric Rouzaud. We tasted and we said, it’s good so why not?’
Lécaillon, who has overseen a shift to organic and biodynamic viticulture at Roederer in the last two decades, said of the 2018 vintage more generally, ‘I’ve never seen such a great vintage overall.
‘Everything is really super precise, super elegant, with so much variety of pristine fruit, texture and freshness.’
He added that ‘fighting for freshness’ was now key in Champagne, whereas previous chefs de caves faced a greater battle for ripeness.
Roederer is planning to release the 2012 vintage of its Brut Nature later this year. The wine is made entirely from Demeter-certified biodynamic vineyards in the Cumières area.
Next year, the house plans to debut a small amount of ‘Coteaux Champenois’, still red wine made from Pinot Noir, including 30% whole bunch. Lécaillon has also been working on a Coteau Champenois white wine.
The next Cristal Vinothèque release will be the 1999 vintage.