by Paige Donner
This title actually began as a chapter heading for my journal entry about my visit to Champagne Louis Roederer in Reims. But I liked it so much that I’m using it here, too. It just works so beautifully. It describes simply what Cristal, the legendary champagne by Roederer, is all about. Or, more precisely, what Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon, Roederer’s Chef de Caves – that’s Cellar Master or “winemaker” in French – does with his wines.
It was at the cellars in Reims where I was treated to a guided tour by none other than Mr. Lécaillon. Yes, a visit to the cellars where Cristal is made, where a million bottles of the golden elixir lay resting before disgorgement, and by the man who blends this most famous of the world’s champagnes.
Unbelievable. Or, rather, Unforgettable.
It’s required a fair amount of reflection to settle upon a term as to how to describe the man who elaborates the world’s most famous, and perhaps loved, champagne. To alight upon the nearest approximation of an accurate term as to how to describe him and his reverence for his wine – the raw materials of soil, grapes and vines as well as the process of blending and “making” his wines, or, rather, revealing his wines, as he would be more wont to describe the process – has been a challenge. After much pondering I was finally able to settle on a term.
That term is “high-priest.” Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon is the high-priest of champagne. I played with the term, in my mind, of “Godfather.” But that risks the connotation of something other than what I mean. Whereas I would mean it in the way of “Godparent,” no doubt others would interpret it to mean more in the way of the movie title. This is, after all, Cristal. A champagne that has had a starring role in a dozen or more Hollywood films.
So “High Priest” it is. Why “high priest?” It’s the crystal clear and infinitely nuanced vision he has.
What do I mean? Let me try to explain… I saw that at times he has attempted to explain what he does in terms of music. Like a great composer who writes music with notes, he begins with the singular raw materials (notes) and with these, using subtle and nuanced blends and combinations, he makes a symphony. His most famous symphony is Cristal.
But he said one word during the guided visit at the Roederer Caves in Reims that rainy afternoon that just so happened to be International Women’s Day, while we were tasting – Yes! my first-ever taste of Cristal and even also the elusive Cristal Rosé – and that one word was Vibration.
Is it possible to imprint a tangible thing, a product, a revelation of nature, with a vibration, with energy?
If everything in the known universe is energy – you, me, the tree, the sun, the moon, the stars – then so it is with wine. Of course.
And most certainly with champagne.
In fact, champagne, by its very nature, its bubbles, is probably the most energetic of all wines.
So like a composer transmits a certain energy by combining his notes in a particular way to bring forth his unique expression of sound, so it is, I believe with this man’s wines, the most famous being Cristal.
Cristal is a wine. It is a celebrated champagne. The most celebrated on Earth, in fact. And it is a singularly unique vibratory energy. It’s a frequency. It’s a vibration. It’s the Cristal Vibration.
Lécaillon imprints his wines with this energetic vibration. Or, more precisely, he orchestrates the energetic vibrational imprint that nature has already made on the grapes – via the crayères (chalky champagne soil and cellars), the sun exposure, the placement of the vines the climactic conditions of that year – and allows its essence expression in his champagnes.
His is the vision of a poet. The sensitivity of a high priest. When, a few days later, I came across an article he had written called the Artistry of Wine, I felt gratified and somehow contented when I read the Goethe quote he cites in his text,
“Through an intuitive perception of eternally creative nature we may become worthy of participating spiritually in its creative process.”
See what I mean?!
He’s the man with the Cristal Vibration.