Late last year I attended the Krug Institute of Happiness and left a very happy camper indeed. I do enjoy a glass or 3 of Krug so you can imagine my delight when I was invited to participate in the Krug Celebration. A 3 day event of all things Krug at the house in Reims.
Spring time in Champagne is lovely. However, this year Spring was still waiting to, er, spring, and so it was a rather wet and drizzly afternoon as we headed to the main house of Krug to meet Olivier and his team of winemakers. After brief introductions all round, we headed down to the cellars for the first of many “surprise” tastings – as Olivier told us, with a twinkle in his eyes.
And what a surprise it was – a vertical of magnums, 1961,1969, 1971, 1973 and the youngster, 1981. The main purpose was to show that “…there is no hierarchy amongst the vintages…each one is a unique expression of the year…” Olivier explained that even today, they adhere to the notes that Joseph Krug put down in his now iconic cherry coloured leather notebook when they are blending their champagne. As Olivier said, if they get stuck, they have Joseph at hand, in the form of his notebook, to guide them. There is no recipe per se at Krug. Their aim is to show the very best expression of champagne in each bottle. To that end, they have over 200 base wines to choose from including reserve wines that go back 15 years or more for their non-vintage Grande Cuvee. In comparison, most other non-vintages only use wines from a 3 or 4 years. Krug only make 2 cuvees (and since the 90’s, a rose), the Grande Cuvee which is for all intents and purposes their non-vintage and the vintage.
It was a fantastic trip into the past, the magnums were set deep in the cellar facing the Krug library of champagnes. It was awesome to see all those vintages locked behind an iron gate. Well, they did stretch back to the 1800’s….Anyway, back to the tasting, the 1961 was my favourite, with a powerfully aromatic nose, coffee, nuts and tobacco, still very fresh with a palate of candied orange peel, nuts and even a slight floral note- it had a finish that would not quit, holding onto its structure and body, the ’61 is still raring to go. Many people preferred the ’69, it being a touch sweeter and more opulent then the ’61. The ’71 was “fresh but subtle with a more citrus character” my notes say and the ’73 was a bit “dilute” according to my notes – only when compared to the ’61, I’d say! It’s easy to get spoiled at the house of Krug. The ’81 was a pup by comparison, loads of fruit and toasty flavours and aromas, it still had a limey finish to it and has a long way to go before it hits decrepitude.
What a pleasure that was but that was not the end of the night. After we had finished off the magnums, we headed back upstairs for dinner and a lineup of Grande Cuvees. The evening came about because one of the staff of Krug realised that the Grande Cuvee did not always sell out before the next release and that scattered around the world were many older vintages of the Grand Cuvee.
Krug bought them back and that evening we were partook of 4 different Grande Cuvee “vintages” (the Grande Cuvee – base 2007, oldest wine 1990, Grande Cuvee Savoir-Faire – base 2001, oldest 1988, Grande Cuvee Equilibre – base 1998, oldest 1988 and the Grande Cuvee Richesse – base 2000, oldest 1988). Each of the Grande Cuvees had a different story to tell and it was a worthy excercise in the ageability of the Grande Cuvee.
Since every Grande Cuvee tells a story, in an effort to be more transparent in their wine making, Krug has now introduced what they call the Krug ID. It is an ID number that each bottle of Grande Cuvee how has printed on its label. The idea being that you can take that number, plug it into the Krug website and find out everything about it’s particular production.
By this time my spirit was beginning to flag but they had one more surprise up their sleeve before we retired to bed. Shepherded out to the courtyard, after several attempts, Olivier managed to pop open a jeroboam of the Grande Cuvee to accompany a sound and light show screened on the clock tower of the winery. A wonderful way to end the evening under the stars and with a glass of Krug Grande Cuvee in my hand. I have a video of the sound and light show which I hope to get uploaded in the next few days…
(next- Day 2 at Krug, base wines, Clos d’Ambonnay and Clos du Mesnil)