Y9 Review - Wine Reviews by Wine Critic John Turi
Cristal Champagne

Louis Roederer Cristal, Champagne, 2005

Wine Rating: 95

Every night with dinner, I drink an average of two glasses of red wine. This is done for a variety of reasons, but the two primary reasons are these: First, red wine is healthy for the body (I read that in Cosmo). Second, in an effort to continually enhance my knowledge and appreciation and to expand my palate and experience, I must always be sampling various wines, and there is no shortage of options. The array of choices is vast. So with any luck, I’ll be at this awhile. And because my wife, Shawn-Marie, deems these reasons to be completely valid, along with championing my desire to consistently heighten my wisdom, I get to enjoy my vino at the price tag of collecting, with no questions asked.

Of the many benefits of our nightly libations, one is that Shawn-Marie drinks with me. Not only do we get to drink together, but she has actually become my wine student, a mini-oenophile if you will. My wife is a phenomenal business mentor for female entrepreneurs, and to say she has great taste would be an understatement. It’s clear that has carried over to our love for great wine. By day, she works with women who really want to take their business to the next level and helps those who need to expand, to get things back on track, or who are ready to take the leap of starting the business they have always dreamed of having. She guides them and helps them get connected to what they really want in their lives and shows them how to make money doing it. As Shawn Marie says, “Entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart, and having fearless passion and knowing what you’re good at is a great start… but it’s not enough.”

If she’s working with a woman who has just left the comfort of a cushy job or a position in the corporate world to pursue her dream of owning her own business but isn’t sure where to begin or how to put the much-needed structure in place, Shawn-Marie takes her by the hand and, with the most creative, savvy, professional, committed and reliable guidance (think Tony Robbins), she teaches her how to become self-confident, tap into her worth and create a life and business she loves.

I share all of this with you because it is that same level of tenacity, attention, and passion that she shares with me when I show her the color of a true Pinot Noir shining through a glass. She is completely and ever-present. It is also how she responds when she brings the wine’s aroma to her nose and finds the flavor in the grapes—and, at times, she finds it faster than I do.

Here is the truth: a good teacher is nothing without the willingness to be continually educated. I bring up all these fine qualities of my wife because during dinner the other night she leaned into me after she took a long drink of a mid-range Pinot Noir (Testarossa Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands, 2009 – $29) and said in the sexiest of voices you’ve ever heard, “I have come to believe that there is no Pinot Noir under $45 worth drinking.” And with that, a wide smile appeared on my face, like that of Master Kan when Kwai Chang Caine snatched the stone from his hand and sent Grasshopper on his journey. I put my glass down, wiped a tear from my eye and said: “You had me when you said that the winemaker lacked passion in his vines and that the aroma smelled hurried and the fruit was scared.”

This woman, my dear reader, is my partner in wine, and this month we celebrate 15 years of wedded insanity. A long and winding road it has been, and yet we have always continued to find ways to discover the passion in one another. I am sure it doesn’t hurt that my day job is working as a Marketing Manager and Designer for one of the world’s largest adult toy manufacturers. On a weekly basis, I’m bringing home boxes of vibrators, dildos, paddles and so on, for her/us to test and critique. Those horribly written 50 Shades of Gray novels have nothing on the level of adventure we find.

As a side note, 15-Year anniversaries are celebrated traditionally with gifts made of crystal. Since both of us find crystal very old fashioned, we have decided to go one step beyond and celebrate November 9th with a different kind of crystal (and I don’t mean meth). Ladies and gentlemen may I present: Louis Roederer Cristal.
The only bad thing about Cristal is that over the last 10 years many music and celebrity folk have created an allure for this champagne simply because of its price tag, thinking it adds cachet and sadly not for the spectacular liquid that it is; if you are an economics major you will know this term as a Veblen Good. Yes… it’s expensive, not as much as some, but more than most; however, if you have the palate for wine and you’ve taken the time needed to understand and appreciate why Cristal (among others) fetches the kind of price it does, you will know the instant you taste it why it is classified as “remarkable,” and trust me, it’s not the cost. If you don’t believe me then go ask a pretentious rich kid why they drink Cristal and have them explain its finer nuances. Good luck with that.

For this month’s column, I am not going to go into the 230+ years of the company’s history or tell you about Louis Roederer himself. Instead, I am going to put the focus on this legendary champagne and what makes it so amazing. You see it appear in music videos (mostly hip-hop), in books and in movies. One of my favorite movies in which Cristal appears is Four Rooms. Quentin Tarantino puts Cristal on the map by saying “This is Cristal! Everything else is just piss!

And there you have it. Enough said! I will admit that although that is certainly not a true statement, Cristal is, hands down, an extraordinary champagne, and the Tarantino quote gives you an idea of the magic that happens when you blend Pinot Noir and Chardonnay together. Still to this day, in the age of modern technology, Cristal continues to be hand riddled, one bottle at a time.

Something to be aware of is that even champagne needs a few minutes to open up and breathe. I usually ice bucket the wine after I’ve opened it, allowing it to remain cold and to give it a chance to take in some air, get its legs. I like my champagne about 50° – 55°, in a nice tall champagne flute. The shape of a flute allows the bubbles to remain compact in the glass. Marilyn Monroe would state, after a sip of champagne, “That tickles my nose.”

Louis Roederer
Cristal, 2005

Produced by: Louis Roederer
Winemaker: Jean-Baptiste Lecaillon

Winery: Louis Roederer
Label: Cristal
City: Reims
Vintage: 2005
Region: Champagne
Location: France
Varietal: Pinot Noir and Chardonnay

Appearance (Color): Champagne
Aroma (Complexity): Peach, Pine, Fig, Clove
Body (Texture and Weight): Crisp, bursting and poised
Taste (Balance of Flavor): Peach, Walnut, Clove, Ginger
Finish (What lingers): Peach, clove, lavender
Price: $200

John Turi