February 24th 2015
“Never ever compromise on quality.” Handed down from father to son, this overarching philosophy is the foundation stone of every aspect of Krug’s business. Krug’s positioning as a truly iconic brand is a given, but their unerring commitment to maintaining implacably high standards was reinforced in a brilliant tasting with Olivier Krug last week.
They believe a good Champagne house should have two equal cuvées: a multi-vintage wine made each year which delivers “the best of everything” and, when the quality merits, a vintage wine. The vintage must be as good as the non-vintage while also reflecting the particular characteristics of that year.
Their flagship wine, the Grande Cuvée, clearly meets the former criteria. In any particular year they are playing with around 240 parcels of current vintage and 150 different reserve wines. Weaker parcels are ruthlessly eliminated, everything committed to the search for richness, the drive to recreate greatness. This is not to say that all Grande Cuvée is identical; it is rather the ultimate expression of the ingredients available at that time. The two bottles we tried made from a base of 2003 and 2006 respectively were quite distinct, and not just because of the difference in their ages.
Olivier then commented “a vintage is made if nature has given a story worth sharing”. Interestingly their 2003 which we tasted, renowned as the hottest year in recent memory, is all about freshness, life and vitality. He clearly enjoys confounding the critics’ expectations.
David Roberts MW will be providing his full tasting notes of the three wines, so watch this space.
At some point I should probably nail my colours to the mast … Krug has always been one of my favourite Champagnes. I clearly remember my first glass of their Grande Cuvée (a birthday at the Square), and an extraordinary dinner in the Krug Room at the Dorchester the best part of ten years ago is firmly imprinted on my memory. And, without it being a weekly or even monthly occurrence, various other equally exquisite bottles shared with friends or family have peppered the years.
So news of last week’s tasting was met with a distinct frisson of excitement. Olivier is a great showman, an extraordinary spokesman for the brand, and his passion is underpinned by a total involvement in his family’s business. He is one of the tasting committee who review 15 wines daily to work towards the final blend in each incarnation of the Grande Cuvée, and as such is intimately involved in the discussions and decisions that influence what ends up in the bottle.
He believes that a great Champagne is enjoyed differently from a great wine and that the nuances of viticulture and vinification are interesting only to a few.
Krug have recently launched an app which will identify the ID number on your bottle and then give all sorts of information designed to enhance your enjoyment and engagement. While there is plenty of technical information from the number of wines in the blend (142 wines from 11 different years for the bottle we tested it with) and a detailed review from Eric Lebel, the chef de cave, this is not just for wine geeks. There are recommended food matches, glassware and music pairings; the focus is firmly on the experience.
And I can only encourage you to delight in it for yourself. We will be offering a few of their limited edition “Les Créations de 2003″ cases (only 1000 produced) allowing a clear comparison between their Grande Cuvée using 2003 as its base and the 2003 vintage. And while the differences are fascinating the similarities are just as striking. Bottom line, these are two extraordinary Champagnes; to taste one may be regarded as good fortune, to taste both a great privilege.
I will also be posting an old article from 2006 with a little more detail on the Krug family and the story of the brand.