Every bottle of champagne has a luxury element to it, but not everyone wants to settle for the classic non-vintage. The topmost category in the champagne pyramid consists of prestige cuvée (cuvée de prestige) champagnes. This category originated in 1873, when Czar Alexander II of Russia ordered his own special blend in a crystal bottle from his trusted supplier, Champagne Louis Roederer. Moët & Chandon then again was the first champagne house to release a commercial prestige champagne, the Dom Pérignon vintage 1921 released in 1936. The Louis Roederer Cristal champagne as we know it today was launched after World War II.
The category started as a niche branch but rose to its current status in the 1950s and 1960s, and is continuously increasing in significance. Prestige cuvée champagnes are made from grapes harvested from the highest-rating Grand Cru villages, often exclusively from Pinot Noir or Chardonnay. These two grape varieties have the longest maturation potential. It is the long ageing of the prestige cuvées that enhances the rich variety of aromas, the intensive structure and the fine mousse. Champagne ages beautifully, and prestige cuvées in particular are at their peak long after release. Most prestige champagnes, especially Cristal, Dom Pérignon, Philipponnat Clos des Goisses and Salon, require long cellaring before they reveal their true, rich, subtle, aristocratically stylish essence.