The strength of the much-admired and still family-owned company of Roederer is customarily said to reside in its 200 ha vineyard estate, though in fact it is not the size of this which counts so much as the fact that 115 ha are Grand Cru and and 70 ha Premier Cru.
Roederer’s viticultural practices (including green harvesting) are genuinely and unusually stringent, and it supplies two-thirds of the company’s needs. The rest of the company’s supplies are contracted, and all purchases inspected; even so, Jean -Claude Rouzard says that with hindsight he wishes he had refused to expand sales earlier in his career so that the company could now be self-sufficient in grapes. “I am very discouraged by what I see in Champagne today.
Quality is not an issue for too many people.” Brut Premier is a reliable and always well aged (3.5 years) Brut non-vintage, built on a core of Pinot Noir. It contains up to 20% of Roederer’s famous wood-aged reserves, and malolactic is prevented for most of the blend (though the exact proportion varies). High tech filtration techniques (at 0.6 5 microns) ensure that Roederer’s non-malolactic proportions are stable. The style is bell-round, nonetheless, with the reserves being used to tickle in extra ripeness in years where nature has not delivered. The rest of the range is exclusively vintage-dated, thus stylistically diverse, though always dignified, concentrated, firm, and slow to unfold; the aromatic creamy Blanc de Blancs perhaps offers most appealing value, though nothing in the range is sold at prices competitive with those of the great Champagne growers.
Cristal is, with Moet’s Dom Perignon, one of the world’s two most celebrated Prestige cuveés, and is a carefully crafted and beautifully packaged Champagne of considerable finesse and penetrating intensity. The 1995 seems to combine the incision and minerality of great Cote des Blanc sites with the booming rounded fruit of the Montagne de Reims; its faintly oxidative complexities (honey, beeswax) and biscuity notes indicate finely judged cellar work. Few wines truly deserve the epithet ‘iconic’, but should a latter-day Andrei Rublov choose to work with grapes rather than paints, Cristal might be the kind of thing he’d create. Andrew Jefford-The New France