A bottle of Louis Roederer Cristal (1993)
Cristal is the brand name of a Champagne produced by Louis Roederer. Cristal has a flat-bottomed clear, "crystal" bottle, anti-UV cellophane wrapper, and gold label. Widespread awareness of its high price has given the wine an image of exclusivity that, in turn, has elevated demand: it is considered a Veblen good.
Cristal was first created in 1876 for Alexander II of Russia, and is viewed by many as the first prestige cuvée. As the political situation in Russia at the time of his rule was unstable, the Tsar feared assassination. He ordered that champagne bottles for his Three Emperors Dinner be made clear, so that he could see the bubbles and also to prevent hiding a bomb within them, as could happen with a typical dark green bottle. Louis Roederer commissioned a Flemish glassmaker to create a clear lead glass Champagne bottle with a flat bottom. The Champagne has since become known as "Cristal".
The wine was not commercially available until 1945. In the mid 1990s and early 2000s, the brand became increasingly associated with rap and hip-hop culture, with several artists referencing the drink in song lyrics and as part of their public image, notably New York rappers Raekwon, 50 Cent, Biggie Smalls, Puff Daddy, Big L, Hollywood Undead, and Jay-Z, and in this context is often referred to as "Crissy". Tupac Shakur created a cocktail called "Thug Passion", which is a blend of Alizé Gold Passion and Cristal. In 2006, the managing director of Louis Roederer, Frédéric Rouzaud, was quoted in an article in The Economist on the brand’s popularity with hip-hop artists. His comments were interpreted as negative, and Jay-Z launched a boycott of the brand.
The 1974 vintage was the first release of a rosé Cristal. The grape composition is an approximately equal blend of Chardonnay and Pinot noir, while the rosé contains more Pinot noir, and is colored with red wine rather than Pinot noir grape skins, the saignée method. The 2000 vintage is 55% Pinot Noir and 45% Chardonnay, with a dosage of 10 g/l. The annual production of Cristal is 300,000 to 400,000 bottles.
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