So the final morning and penultimate visit in Champagne was quite simply – The Big One – the house that was more than any other on my to do list – a house whose ‘entry’ level Champagne starts where most houses finish (a bottle of Krugs ‘technically NV’ multi vintage Grande Cuvee retails in the same ballpark as Pol Roger’s Winston Churchill, Veuve Clicquot’s Grande Dame, Dom Perignon Perrier Jouet’s Belle Epoque).
I’d tasted Krug Rose’ and Grande Cuvee before and found them to be so profound that instantly I’m a Krug fan so when I was putting together a list of who what when and where for the trip there was one name above all others that was my starting point. That we came here towards the end of the trip, on the final day was a complete master stroke albeit one that was not intentional – I’d have been a Krug whenever they had said come!
At the end of the trip it also meant that I could see how it stacked up against a fair bit of other Champagne (in addition to those in the visit notes we’d also been drinking Joseph Perrier, Delamotte Blanc de Blancs and Pol Roger Brut Reserve), but somehow has managed to stack most of the more elegant lighter styles of Champagne at the front of the week and the fullbodied wines towards the end. And then there was Krug. I have to say that any visit that starts with a glass of Grande Cuvee at 10.30 am is certainly heading in the right direction.
So what of Krug, well it’s now part of the LVMH empire in the wine and spirits division alongside Moet, Dom Perignon, Veuve Cliquot, Mercier and Ruinart and also features Chateau d’Yquem, Cheval Blanc, Cloudy Bay, Cape Mentelle, Terrezas de los Andes, Domain Chandon, Hennessy, Belvedere Vodka, Glenmorangie and Ardbeg – it’s an enviable portfolio in anyone’s books. How then would what is essentially a boutique house fit into this kind of portfolio. Well it seems that LVMH are pretty good at running things like this – looks at how Ardbeg and Glenmorangie are run, one eclectic, small and clever on marketing the other glossy and well polished. And so it appears that rather than dumbing down Krug it has given it a whole new lease of life. Olivier Krug remains involved as house director whilst Remi and Henri are still involved.
In addition to the two ‘multi vintage’ blends Krug also make a vintage Champagne and two single vineyard vintage Champagnes made in tiny and even tinier quantities. ‘Clos de Mesnil’ is a blanc de blancs from Mesnil sur Oger (grand cru) that I hope to taste one day whilst Clos d’Ambonnay is a blanc de noirs from Ambonnay (again Grand Cru) that is aged well (current vintage is 1998) before release, costs over £1800 a bottle due to its rarity and I have already resigned myself (aged 40) that I won’t ever get to taste this Champagne (sad but true).
Krug ferment their wine by individual plots in small oak casks and allow long periods of maturation before release, these are wines for who no expense is spared (although the cellars are a little damp as a result of the rose garden above that needs regular watering!)
Krug Grande Cuvee
This was based on the 2005 vintage and contains 11 different vintages back to 1990 in the reserve wines. Dosage is at the low end of Brut.
Very rich, mature and elegant – but full bodied. Incredible complexity and concentration – this is better than I remember the previous bottles I’ve tasted being. Such concentration! Lots of autolytic and mature notes and yet floating gently over the top is this sublime pefume. Exceptional length, stylish and pure somehow is had both breadth across the palate and real precision and focus. Words starting to fail me here. 96 Points
Krug 2003 Vintage Brut
Suddenly it feels like I’m in a different ballpark in a different league. My first taste of vintage Krug – will it let me down? Not on your life… Concentration here that I’ve just never experienced before, masses and masses of complexity with nutty earthy character. Ozone, toast and brioche notes float around. The texture is soft, this certainly feels very ready to drink and mature right now. It’s open and approachable. If I were to criticise it at all then I’d nitpick and talk about wanting a bit more tension, freshness or verve in the wine – but to drink right now then this is really very very good indeed. 97 Points
Krug 2000 Vintage Brut
Fresh and nutty, this feels significantly more backward than the 2003. Again lots and lots of complexity quite mature but not as mature as the 03 so I guess loads of time for it. Fresher and more austere than the 2003 which I really like – I’d probably drink the 2003 tonight given the choice but if I’m buying a case then 2000 wins every time. This is tightly knit with lovely minerality and is quite linear in style but still with that huge intensity of flavour. Long and pure, (I could still taste this some time after leaving Krug) it has lovely fragrance and perfume. I am left a little gob smacked by this. This is the Champagne against which all other Champagnes will now be judged. Just feel sorry for Ruinart who we visited next! 98 Points.
Photos by Jon Marlow http://www.marlow.me.uk