HOW TO READ A CHAMPAGNE LABEL

Champagne labeling laws differ from other parts of France because the entire region falls under a single AOP, the protected term ‘Champagne’ and the wines are categorized according to styles rather than designations. Here the status of the producer is more important than the vineyard sites.

To distinguish between the numerous different styles, Champagne labels use a range of terms as described below.

* Level of sweetness:
o Ultra Brut – Bone dry or very dry
o Brut – Dry
o Sec – Literally dry but has higher sugar level than Brut
o Demi-sec – Medium dry
o Doux – Sweet

* Non-vintage: A Champagne made from a blend of wines from different years.

Some Champagne houses may use up to hundred reserve wines from previous years to produce a consistent house style.

* Vintage: A champagne made from a single year’s harvest. The label must show the year of the harvest.

* Blanc de Blancs: This term on the label means that the Champagne has been produced entirely from white grapes, in other words, Chardonnay.

* Blanc de Noirs: Refers to Champagne made from black grape varieties (Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier).

* Rosé: This is often made by blending a little red wine with whites.

* Grande Marque: Means ‘Great Brand’. A producer may use this term but according to AOP rules does not guarantee quality or any style.

* Cuvée de Prestige: These are the top-of-the-range releases from the Champagne houses and may come with a vintage on the label. Some examples include ‘Dom Pérignon’ from Moët et Chandon, ‘Cristal’ from Louis Roederer and ‘La Grande Dame’ from Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin.

* Marque d’Acheteur: Means ‘Buyer’s Own Brand’. These are often seen on Champagnes sold within a retail or supermarket chain that sells them using their own brand name.

Apart from these there are other non-mandatory terms that may appear on the label that specify type of Champagne producers, maturation time etc.

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Champagne Louis Roederer’s Cristal 2004 [June 2011 Tasting]

Roederer is one of the leading ‘Boutique’ Champagne houses, which became popular for their celebrated ‘Cristal’.  Cristal became chic with celebrities, athletes, and hip hop artists.

Originally founded in the late 18th century, Roederer’s consumers were predominately from the Russian community. In 1876, Tsar Alexander II, a great fan of Louis Roederer’s champagne, asked Roederer to “go one step further” to produce, for his personal consumption, a wine unique in quality and bottle. Roederer created an exceptional white crystal puntless bottle to house the best selection from the seven finest vineyards of his estate, thus creating the very first Prestige cuvee of Champagne.

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Eight champagne enthusiasts gathered at Toronto’s LCBO Avenue Road Location on June 22, 2011 to taste Louis Roederer’s Cristal 2004.

Grape Varieties
55% Pinot Noir and 45% Chardonnay (20% of which is matured in oak casks with weekly batonnage).

Vinification
No malolactic fermentation occurs.  Cristal ages an average of 5 years in the cellars and rests 8 months after disgorgement. Dosage between 8 and 10 g/l.

In the Glass
Unique golden color, combined with an ultra-fine, persistent, soft effervescence.

Bubbles
Ultra-energetic, rich and persistent bead.

On the Nose
The nose is intense and bursting with gorgeous aromas typical of great Pinot Noir grapes. Scents of sweet baked apples, white fruit, pollen, citrus with some mineral nuances

The bouquet is rich and sweet, almost generous, remaining precise and impeccably refined.

On the Palate
Full and creamy, revealing concentrations of juicy fruits: peach, apricot, mango, with hints of grilled hazelnuts. There is a sophisticated touch of acid with some lively minerality.

The overriding impression is one of a true harmony of flavours, senses and silky textures.

Absolute sensuality!

Serving Suggestions

Nothing compliments Cristal better than caviar, oysters and lobster.

My rating:  95/100

Others:

The Wine Advocate rating: 97 Points

Wine Enthusiast rating: 97 Points

Wine & Spirits rating: 97 Points

Parker Points®: 96+

Wine Spectator rating: 93 Points