Monday, September 15, 2008

Joanna Simon in The Sunday Times, August 3, 2008: Spitting Cristal

I know it’s vulgar to talk about money, but as I spat the 2002 Cristal Rosé into the elegant spittoons in Roederer’s tasting room I couldn’t help wondering how many pounds’ worth I was ejecting into Reims’ sewage system at £300-£545 a bottle (the price-span for the 2000 vintage; 2002 has yet to be shipped).

Spitting fine wine is all in a day’s work, of course, but some days are more painful than others. This was one. I spat out seven vintages of Cristal, four white and three pink. The white is cheaper (anything from about £170 to £238 for the 2000 vintage; more for older ones), but even so I reckon it was close to £100 down the drain - literally, not metaphorically.

Cristal sometimes hits the headlines for the wrong reasons – for example, the falling-out with Jay-Z over his spraying it round the room (allegedly) - but there is no question it’s superlative champagne. As it should be. If you can’t afford it (few can), note that all Louis Roederer champagnes are made by the same people in the same cellars and largely from the family’s own vineyards.

2002 Roederer Brut Vintage Rosé, £49.99-£63
Not Cristal, but one of the best rosé champagnes (Wimbledon Wine Cellars, 0208 540 9979; Vintage House, 020 7437 2592; Harvey Nichols, 020 7235 5000; Fortnum & Mason, 0845 300 1707).

2002 Roederer Brut Vintage, £49.99-£60
Rich brioche and candied citrus flavours (Wimbledon Wine Cellars, Fortnum & Mason, Vintage House, Berry Bros & Rudd, 0800 900 4300)

Quartet, Roederer Estate, £17.99-£19.99
Convincing champagne-lookalike made in California (Waitrose, Majestic).