India's First Wine, Food and Hospitality Website, INDIAN WINE ACADEMY, Specialists in Food & Wine Programmes. Food Importers in Ten Cities Across India. Publishers of delWine, India’s First Wine.
Skip Navigation Links
About Us
Indian Market
Wine & Health
Wine Events
Retail News
Contact Us
Skip Navigation Links
Wine Tourism
Book Review
Photo Gallery
Readers' Comments
Video Wall
Media Partners
Ask Wineguyindia
Wine & Food
Wine Guru
Gerry Dawes
Harvest Reports
Mumbai Reports
Advertise With Us
US Report on Indian Market Released
Top Ten Importers List 2015-16
On Facebook
On Twitter
Delhi Wine Club

Posted: Tuesday, September 16 2008. 10:25

Wine Tastings: Cristal and All That Rap

Visit to Delhi by Damien Motte, Export Director of  Louis Roederer, was a revelation that Champagne was only the birthplace for this family-run champagne House,  quietly acquiring many jewels during its journey through France, USA and Portugal, reports Subhash Arora

When you hear of Louis Roederer, you listen in rap attention- the Cristal may make you feel like a rapper but the producer may not take kindly to your drinking from the bottle-even though the rappers in the US did until they decided to boycott one of the most expensive champagnes that would set you back by upwards of $350 a bottle.

One cannot blame them. Because it comes in an anti UV cellophane wrapper does not mean it has been designed for rappers. The gold-labeled Cristal was in fact created for the Russian Czar Nicolas II who wanted a special flat bottle designed exclusively for him and made with a crystal clear glass with no punt so that no bomb could be hidden inside or outside the bottle. Many heads of State enjoyed the elegant and exclusive champagne, aptly named Cristal during his rule.

Post revolution in Russia, prohibition in the US and the second world war through which the last of the Roederers, Mdme Camille Olry Roederer used her business acumen to establish the US market deftly and lay a solid foundation. As Damien explained to a full house at Hotel Shangri-la , the listed company controlled and managed by the family owes its sustenance to her.

If she helped steer the ship through rough weather, her oenology-trained grand son Jean-Claude Rouzaud expanded it further for 30 years after her death in 1975 and now his son Frederic, the 6th generation family member is helping continue that expansion, with the latest jewel in the crown being the second growth Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande in Pauillac in 2006, that also got them a foot in South Africa through a winery it owns.

Louis Roederer Brut Premier

The excellent reputation of Cristal (pronounced as Kris-taal) might have popularized it as 'champagne of the czars'. But the Brut Premier NV (MV or Multi-vintage as Damien likes to call it as wines from multiple vintages are blended to give the wine a  consistency in flavour), a blend of from 56% Pinot Noir, 34% Chardonnay and 10% Pinot Meunier makes it the work-horse for the company, with 70-80% production limited to this label.

Light straw coloured wine with green shades, looks very pale  in appearance but the first sip induces you to take another due to its crispiness and the very fine bubbles that tingle on your tongue while they last. Though made from a majority of red Pinot varietals, it was extremely springy and spritely on the palate.

Vintage 2003 Brut

2003 is a vintage no one in Europe really wants to talk about as if the extreme hot summer made it a real freaky vintage. However, the wine consisting 66% Pinot Noir and 34% Chardonnay was drinking rather nicely. I found it rather perplexing that the bubbles did not seem to last long in the liquid or the palate, despite excellent mousse (froth). It wouldn't have been because of the glasses as initially the bubbles travelled upwards in a state of frenzy but fizzled out earlier than expected and the tingling sensation also decreased substantially-the brilliant acidity carried it through on the palate.

Cristal 2002

Truly like a Bordeaux first or second growth chateau wine, Cristal is crafted from the house grown grapes from the grand cru vineyards-the absolute top quality, said Motte. 'Actually making Cristal is easy-using the best quality grapes and long term ageing are the two  important factors. You need to mature the wine for at least 10 years to get the best flavours, says our winemaker,' he added.

The Roeder buys all its pinot Meunier, the cheaper variety from outside as also some quantity of other varietals outside its own production in 214 hectares, a majority of which are Grand Cru classified. In Champagne vineyards rather than the producers in Bordeaux are classified-Grand Cru being the highest rated followed by the Premier Cru and then the normal cru, the prices of grapes fixed downwards accordingly.

This wine had concentrated bouquet, with the flavour reminiscent of crisp apples. It did leave a long impression on the palate with bubbles giving full back-end support to the flavour and texture. It was truly elegant and harmonious wine that might not be easy on the pocket but definitely on the palate.

All the bubblies we tasted were Brut, with 9 gms of sugar (Brut can have up to 15 gms of sugar unlike demi- sec which can have a maximum of 50 gms/lt). This makes the taste pleasantly dry because of the live acidity. This wine is perfect to drink by itself or with fish.

A slight addition of sugar, to a level of 20-25 gms would not make their Brut too sweet and cloying due to balanced acidity but will make it a full accompaniment to Indian vegetarian meal so long as the chilies are reigned in. The only problem with this wine is that you just cannot stop at one glass or two or three-so be warned!

And All That Rap

Louis Roederer has been rapping away with several premier estates it has purchased during the last 25 years-the first estate Motte made us visit was the sea-side Domaines Ott in Provence. A medium bodied Blanc de Blanc in a beautifully designed bottled, made from blend that included Semillon and the Italian varietal Role did not impress as much as the second, a Rosé made from a blend of Cabernet, Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault. It had a distinct personality, with medium body and a touch of tannins that might make it a pleasant condiment with Indian or even Chinese food during hot summers, I would find it a delightful aperitif with meaty Indian snacks.

The rolling, beautiful vineyards of Portuguese Douro came alive in the glass next, with their Duas Quintas (two vineyards) Tinto 2006 and Reserva 2004 from Ramos Pinto winery which was integrated with Roederer in 1990. Duas Quintas is a blend of Portuguese indigenous grapes Touriga Nacional, Touriga Francesa and Touriga Roriz. The Reserva uses mainly the popular varietal Touriga Nacional. The full bodied, powerful, tannic complex wines with a whiff of bitter chocolate and coffee, would be perfect with meat and game. The tannins would be too strong for the Indian spicy food, although grilled or barbecued pork or mutton chops with light marinate or sikandary raan will be a perfect match, despite it being slightly hot on the palate due to the seemingly high level of alcohol.

After the delicious aperitifs, an easy first course and the hearty main course, it was time for an after dinner drink and what could be better than a Late Bottled Vintage Port. The 2003 vintage LBV was not yet smooth but quite powerful and quaffable-it will taste even better after storing for 5-years or even more. 

What was lacking in the 'multi-cuisine meal' was the chateau wine from 'Comtesse de Lalande'. A 1989, 1990 or even 1995 would have complemented the excellent champagnes.

There is always the next time. After all, this was the first ever visit by Louis Roederer to a country the whole champagne region is looking upto, for guzzling the best bubblies in the world.

Subhash Arora

September 16, 2008


Want to Comment ?
Please enter your comments in the space provided below. If there is a problem, please write directly to Thank you.

Generate a new image

Type letters from the image:

Please note that it may take some time to get your comment published...Editor

Wine In India, Indian Wine, International Wine, Asian Wine Academy, Beer, Champagne, World Wine Academy, World Wine, World Wines, Retail, Hotel


Copyright©indianwineacademy, 2003-2020 |All Rights Reserved
Developed & Designed by Sadilak SoftNet