On one level, Cristal champagne is a drink for connoisseurs as Louis Roederer’s finest quality champagne and the firm’s “prestige cuvée”. Such wines are distinguished by the extraordinary levels of care taken to perfect the flavours, the balance of sweetness and dryness, even the aroma.
Cristal is a blend of only the best chardonnay and pinot noir grapes from Louis Roederer’s exclusive range of vineyards, combined in the proportion that will achieve the unique Cristal flavour. The recent 2002 vintage Cristal, for example, is a precise blend of 55% pinot noir and 45% chardonnay, using harvests from the Montagne de Reims, Vallée de la Marne and Côte des Blancs vineyards.
This attention to detail gives Cristal its utterly distinctive taste, a heady combination of sugary flower notes and citrus tones, often remarked upon for being both delicate and powerful. Wine tasters for international magazines and journals invariably rate Cristal among the best of champagnes, with some particularly fine vintages scoring 100/100 for quality in review articles.
Most connoisseurs would balk at the idea of mixing such an exquisite champagne into a cocktail or otherwise diluting the flavour. And yet, there are others with a more laissez-faire attitude who are firmly of the opinion that if you have paid for such a fine drink, you should be free to enjoy it in whatever way you see fit.
There is a wide variety of champagne cocktail recipes that have been developed to enhance and build upon, rather than overpower and mask, the flavours of fine champagnes such as Cristal. These include:
“Blue Velvet”, also known as the “Bismarck” — a blend of champagne and stout beer, usually Guinness. This delicious tipple is traditionally prepared by half filling a tall champagne flute with chilled stout, then floating the Cristal or other champagne on top. This drink was created in the Brooks’s Club in London, to mark the death of Queen Victoria’s consort, Prince Albert, in 1861.
“Blow Blue Bubbles”, or sometimes just “Blue Bubbles” — an ounce of blueberry schnapps poured into a champagne flute then filled up with champagne. A splash of Blue Curaçao is sometimes also added to enhance the colour.
“Nelson’s Blood” — usually a straightforward mix of champagne and tawny port in a 5:1 ratio, although some more modern variations include a measure of rum and/or brandy, and blood orange juice.
As you can see, when it comes to a champagne of Cristal’s quality, the choice is yours and however you choose to have it, you can be assured of an exquisite drink.
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