#firstworldproblems: “When I woke up on Wednesday, I had drunk so much Krug that my teeth actually hurt”
Whilst it might look like it from the outside, we don’t actually start every week with Krug. However Mondays can be challenging so when Olivier Krug offered to swing by BI Towers for our bi-annual tasting and friendly catch-up, diaries were instantly cleared. Olivier is the ultimate globe-trotter and bon viveur (as any of you who follow him on Instagram or Twitter will know) and time spent with him is invaluable – not to mention taking the opportunity to enjoy a tasting of the extended Krug range.
Far from being your regular Champagne House, Krug are constantly pushing the envelope not in geeky winemaking terms (although behind the scenes there is undoubtedly a greater attention to detail than virtually any other producer) but in terms of the sheer level of enjoyment one can gain from consuming their Champagne. After all, as Olivier himself declares, Champagne is about pleasure, about celebration, about indulgence. Olivier is an obsessive, and eclectic, music fan and this has led him to explore the science of multi-sensory experiences: moving beyond merely mixing tastes (food and wine matching), Olivier is on a quest to unravel the mystery of how music affects other senses – and in this case, taste. We tried a small experiment during the tasting to explore the very basics of this principle – but more on this later...
So the day started with the tasting. And where better to start than at the top?
Krug Clos d’Ambonnay 2000
My third encounter with this rare and ridiculous wine. Just 0.6ha of pure Pinot Noir, and to quote from my first tasting note “the unnecessary, made possible by the unrelenting, and offering the unforgettable”. Each time this 2000 seems to be getting fresher. Astonishing freshness, but with huge richness and palate weight giving way to palate-drying minerality on the finish. Massive and yet nimble, completely precise, with real class. The Zlatan of Champagnes. 96+pts
An interesting expression of Krug from this forward vintage – and it shows in the style. So drinkable right now. Bold, tropical fruit, followed by steely minerality, then back to a rich but bright lemon meringue. A touch of sweetness. Unquestionably a hedonistic style which still feels ‘Krug’ but which seems unlikely to develop that great savoury richness we might expect from a vintage of this House. 93pts
Always preceded by its fame, one has to be cautious when tasting the ’02. Trouble is it’s impossible not to get swept away by its utter magnificence. This is the Krug of our times: tight, focused, rich and complex, so very ‘Krug’ on the nose. Remarkable texture, both oily and lively, and with incredible intensity. Huge, yet laser-like mid-palate focus. You can drink and enjoy this now but almost every bottle opened feels like a waste, like burning the negative of a Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph. 97+pts
The current ‘edition’ of GC, based on the 2008 vintage. A sublime expression of Krug, it also provides evidence that if possible one must try to resist opening immediately, and put at least 3-5 years extra ageing on your Grande Cuvee before you start tucking in. This is so young, so intense, and with such massive power and vibrant freshness. It has that harmony and balance that comes from perfect blending but its best is still many, many years away. 94+pts
Krug Grande Cuvee Edition 155
This is the way to enjoy Grande Cuvee – in this case, based on the 1999 vintage. The texture has softened, leaving a Champagne that is broad, oily, mouthfilling and rich – and yet has lost none of its vim and pep. This is a complete Krug, the likes of which the 163 promises to be; crisp pastry, ginger biscuit, lemon curd, tarte tatin all speak of its development and downright drinkability. 95pts
Total indulgence and yet serious. Ripe, delicious, with red fruits to balance the toasty citrus, and a silken texture. Real finesse. Here we tried the wine with two types of music: a beautiful, contemporary orchestral piece and a snappy, drum-based rhythm jazz number. The former elevated the sense of finesse and elegance, the seamlessness and acidity, all of which led to a noticeable tingle around the jawline. The latter, with its popping and tapping, emphasised the mousse and texture in the mouth – it bounced the bubbles off the inside of your brain. A pretty fascinating exercise and there is undoubtedly more of this to come from Krug... 94pts
Krug Collection 1990
This is where it gets serious. An incredible complex nose which veers out of citrus and toast and into something vegetal. Spiced, undergrowth, almost autumnal characters – but with no mustiness... extraordinary stuff. The palate is incredibly muscular and fresh but there is a baked apple, meaty, mineral complexity which seems to span all the extremes of wine character – and something else besides. There is no doubt that the level of freshness and acidity will keep the wine going but would you want to let the flavours veer any further from fresh to savoury? Personally I’m not sure – I like this just as it is. And I like it very much. 97pts
Where do we go from here? Well, Elystan Street, obviously... a spot of lunch with a few close friends and the opportunity to match some Krug with the sublime bespoke cooking of Phil Howard.
After a glass or three of Edition 163 and canapés (the truffle arancini will make you weep) we settled in for a culinary tour de force.
Tartare of scallops, oysters and langoustines with Tokyo turnip and lovage
Fillet of turbot with curried lentils, sprouting broccoli and cashew milk
The first two courses were served with 2003 and 2002 running through both, giving us the opportunity to really explore the vintages side by side. Whilst the first course was classical stuff and perfectly matched to the mineral characters in the Champagne, it was the gentle curried notes in the second course that really set the Krug afire – both vintages. Whilst it brought out the tropical mango and lime characters in the 2003, it accentuated the remarkable spice and savoury potential in the 2002. It feels a little like Olivier has to defend the 2003, and this is unfair as it is unquestionably a ‘Krug’ – however, serving it alongside the 2002 is also unfair. There’s no doubt which will stand the test of time, and therefore, the test of true greatness.
Tagine of lamb with green olives and aromatic couscous
Served with Krug Rose – for real? But what a combo. The lamb was just falling apart, in complete contrast to the wine, which gained weight and traction thanks to the addition of the food... creamy, spiced, savoury, fruited... this was a match made in heaven. Chapeau, M. Howard, chapeau...
Served with two more superb bottles of the Edition 155 (1999 base Grande Cuvee). Rich, mature, hard cheese served with Champagne. Mindblowing.
By now it was pushing 5pm and as Olivier led an intense, remarkably coherent debate about Brexit and the French Elections, I reflected on whether or not I had had a better Monday. It’s possible (most Test Match 5th days I have been to have ended in defeat so those are out) but there’s not one I can remember.
Would Tuesday stack up...? You'll soon find out...
Huge thanks to Olivier, and Joe and Jack at MHUK for their support and assistance in setting this fine day up.