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Is My 1990 Cristal Too Old?

Question from Victor: Today I was going to open my 1990 Cristal Champagne and noticed it was really cloudy. Has it gone bad? Its over 20 years aged.

Reply: Hello, Victor. Thank you for writing! Cloudiness isn’t a good sign but, if it’s been stored properly your Cristal is, theoretically, near the end of its viability but not necessarily beyond. 

These prestige Champagnes are delicious upon release but can also age for a surprisingly long time. There are those who think they don’t really come into their own until ten years from the vintage. Total aging time? Up to fifteen or twenty years from the vintage. Some would say even longer, depending upon the producer and the vintage. 

Of course, deliciousness is subjective and personal. Young Champagne is lively and vibrant with peaches and apples, the citrusy tartness rounded by toasty, brioche-like richness. With time those characteristics gradually morph into increased toastiness, dried fruit, nutty character, mineral character often ramps up as may earthy truffle character, and the acidity seems to have softened. It all depends upon the wine. The thing to know about Cristal is that it usually spends five to six years aging on the yeast and is then given additional bottle time before release. The youngest Cristal now available is the 2004. The yeast contact actually helps keep the wine fresh.  

I did a quick search for tasting notes and found these comments on the 1990 Cristal from a 2010 tasting from erobertparker.com :  “The 1990 Cristal is a dramatic, sweeping wine endowed with masses of apricots, peaches, flowers and minerals. A large-scaled Cristal, the 1990 combines size with clarity and focus in a remarkably complete style that recalls the 1982. The wine remains generous on the palate, with stunning length and a finish that lasts forever.”  Continue reading

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