Krug: a Marque of distinction
Author: Gary Owen
There are very few wines which evoke the excitement, nay, almost hysteria amongst those in the wine trade and customers alike as those crafted by Krug and its House Director, Olivier Krug. Thus a visit to our Basingstoke warehouses and a tasting with the Fine Wine team was always going to be both hotly anticipated and keenly remembered by all involved.
Ask any Champagne fan, or indeed any wine enthusiast, if they can remember their first glass of a particular domaine, château or cuvée and one might expect a wistful glance into the middle distance and an approximation of the vintage and year enjoyed if one is lucky. By contrast, ask the first time they experienced Krug and the answer is almost always cuvée, date and occasion-specific, recalled without pause, and for me at least, with a broad, Cheshire Cat-like grin.
Olivier started our four-wine tasting where many in his shoes would conclude it, with the eldest and only single varietal and single vineyard wine – 1998 Clos d’Ambonnay. Only their third ever vintage, Olivier views d’Ambonnayas the “purest expression of Champagne”. In this regard he’s correct – it’s also the finest, most complex and powerful Champagne I’ve ever tasted. If a single Champagne ever defined class, refinement and elegance, then this is surely it. It comes at a price, but then perhaps it should.
The 2003 vintage has its admirers and those who, one might say, ‘let it go through to the wicket keeper’. Given that the Krug team presses all of its base wines from each grower separately (324 separate wines in 2014 alone), it consequently has to harvest each vineyard individually, meaning they will always make a Vintage Champagne of greater focus and refinement.
The 2003 is testament to this, its palate charming you with its exotic and primary-yellow fruit character and sweet custard notes, whilst still having a backbone of steely acidity and crisp, defined edges. In my mind this needs another two to three years to be truly stunning but it is incredibly beguiling already.
This blog could have been devoted solely to any one of the wines included in the tasting, none more so than Grande Cuvée, which is now in receipt of Krug ID – an improvement on the mere disgorgement date that almost gives you the exact recipe behind your particular wine. Our tasting bottle was ID 413073, comprising 142 wines spanning the 2006 to 1990 vintages. It showed wonderful tension throughout, with an expansive front palate of developing yellow-stone fruits. There was more detail in the mid-palate than I’ve seen in some of the grandest white Burgundies. Tasting Grande Cuvée with the addition of ID numbers is now very, very specific and I would encourage you to look up the details when you decide the time is right to tuck into your next bottle.
Olivier’s rosé was tasted as he was dashing out the door to catch his train while still imparting more detail, more passion and more enthusiasm about how he crafts these amazing wines. Remarkable, truly – both the man and the wines behind him.