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19/02/2015

An Exercise in Perfection (or a lack of pragmatism)

by Lucy Stewart (Tastings & Events)

Typical Wednesday afternoon – three fabulous Champagnes enjoyed in the rarefied company of the unique Olivier Krug.

We go a long way back – in fact, one of our Directors Andrew Bruce was bringing Krug into the UK when it was virtually unheard of – and it’s always good to catch up and get Olivier’s unique take on the House of Krug and their current (and previous, and future!) releases.

The Krug vintages from 2003 are a revelation and a must-try for anyone who thinks they know the full story of this vintage. Sure, much of the region suffered from the same heatwave that caused panic and fatalities across Europe. The advantage for Krug lay in their tried-and-tested, labour and cost-intensive methodology of vinifying the fruit from every single plot separately; this enabled them to identify certain plots which produced exceptional fruit of the Krug standard AND told the story of this singular vintage. Unsurprisingly, the selection required to make the requisite quality meant total production was way, way down – around a third of what would normally be produced (already a very small amount compared to most prestige cuvees).

The Clos du Mesnil 2003 is hugely surprising, bright and fresh with incredible citrus vivacity and yet a chalky, flinty minerality which gives huge complexity. It has a rich, mid-palate weight which transfers effortlessly into a long, fine, elegant finish. It’s astonishing and beautifully chiselled.

The Vintage 2003 boasts a similar freshness and vibrancy, but with more of that trademark Krug richness - toasted hazelnut, pastry and hints of sweet spice. It’s broad-shouldered without being brawny, impressive without being overblown, just a perfect balance of brightness and beefiness.

One might think that in comparison to these great vintages, especially the legendary Blanc de Blancs of Clos du Mesnil, that Grande Cuvee is rather the poor cousin. Nothing could be further from the truth. The complexity required to make a completely consistent, multi-vintage blend which reaches the highest standards, year after year, is enormous; in fact, one might consider it an almost futile undertaking. Thank goodness for us that Joseph Krug was not so pragmatic for we would not have the complete, utter and unfailing joy that comes with every single bottle of Grande Cuvee. Arguably the perfect balance between the brightness of the Clos du Mesnil and the richness of the Vintage, Grande Cuvee is magic straight off the bat but exceptional when given extra bottle age.

A significant upgrade to the Grande Cuvee experience is the addition of an ID code to the back label which, when entered into the Krug app, gives you all the information about that particular bottle. Release date, cepage, the base year which provides the majority of the fruit, the individual vintages of the reserve wines... everything. Knowing this information is not only fascinating (for example the bottle we drank today had wines back to ’88 in) but also serves a great purpose for those who wisely like to age their Grande Cuvee for additional years after release. No longer will you have to guess/rotate cases/scribble on the labels to know what’s in each bottle...

We cannot tell you how valuable it is to have cases of Grande Cuvee stashed away, gaining intensity, richness and complexity. This is already one of the most rewarding wines you can drink and a few extra years just improve the experience exponentially.

Thanks again to Olivier for joining us and for sharing such a pleasurable afternoon.