Blending 62% Pinot Noir with 38% Chardonnay, fermented without malolactic and disgorged in 1996 after five years sur lie, the 1990 Cristal is still a superb and amazing prestige Champagne that is far from being over-matured or faded. The wine is as rich as it is pure and finessed, revealing a mineral tension and youthful freshness that is nothing short of stunning given the low-acidity vintage. This proves impressively that substance and terroir matter far more than just acidity. Tasted in May 2018, the 1990 is still fabulous. (SR)
The 1990 Cristal is remarkable. Polished, nuanced and light on its feet, the 1990 is all class. Citrus, orchard fruit and floral notes are wonderfully lifted throughout. A slight reductive note adds character on the finely knit finish. I can’t think of a better way to start this tasting. Simply put, the 1990 is a total rock star. Moreover, it is much more delicate than most wines from this ripe vintage. Amazingly, the 1990 tastes like it is still not ready! “Nineteen ninety was my second vintage here,” says Chef de Caves Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon. “It was ideal. The fruit was just perfect. We blocked the malolactic fermentation completely and only fermented 6-7% of our lots in oak, as opposed to the more typical 20%, in order to preserve as much freshness as possible. The wine was made by my predecessor, Michel Pansu, but I was learning. This was the first year I started working with oxygen by reducing sulfites in vinification to pre-oxidize the Chardonnay musts, as I do know, which allows me to get rid of all the unstable, oxidative compounds. With Pinot, on the other hand, you need a little bit of sulfur at crush or you lose the brilliant fruit. (AG)
I had not crossed paths with a bottle of the 1990 Cristal since all the way back in 2006, so I was absolutely delighted to see that Jean-Baptiste has selected this vintage to be included in our vertical at the maison in the spring of 2018. Having tasted this wine last in a large tasting of the 1990 vintage of Champagne in 2006, I was curious to see how the wine had evolved over the last dozen years and I was delighted to see that it had continued to blossom beautifully and that I had quite underrated it back in ’06. Today, the wine is into its apogee of peak maturity and is absolutely lovely, offering up a deep and complex nose of baked pears and peaches, a touch of white truffle, a beautiful blend of almond and walnut, limestone soil nuances, gentle smokiness and incipient notes in the upper register of the honey to come with further aging. On the palate the wine is pure, full-bodied and utterly refined in profile, with a lovely core, still vibrant mousse, excellent complexity and grip, precise focus and a very long, poised and seamlessly balanced finish. When I last tasted this wine, the muscular nature of the 1990 vintage was quite evident in this wine, but the additional twelve years of bottle age has allowed the inherent elegance of Cristal to come to the fore and this wine is now quite classical in profile and an absolute joy to drink today. (Drink between 2018-2035)
You won't soon forget this vivid and expressive Champagne. It packs in compound layers of citrus, vanilla, pear and nutmeg that harmonize and linger on the finish. Bright acidity makes it extra refreshing and layered. It has really opened up since last year.
Deep orange gold. So rich and full and exotic. Dried tropical fruits. Not that frothy. Hint of coconut. Still very much alive and well. 18.5/20 points. (JR)
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