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Champagne Krug

Website: www.krug.com 

One of the most famous names in the world of wine, Krug are a small house making some of the most profound and ageable Champagnes of all. It’s quite hard to write about producers such as Krug: what more can be said than has already been said? And it’s surely not newsworthy that they’re making great fizz! But for the sake of the record, here’s my report based on a recent tasting, with some older notes on previous vintages added at the end.

A distinctive feature of the winemaking at Krug is the use of small (205 litre) barrels to ferment all base wines. These are old casks that are neutral and don’t impart any oaky flavour to the wine; instead, they allow a slow, controlled exposure to oxygen that helps add complexity to the wines.

Krug specialize only in premium Champagnes. Their most important wine is the Grande Cuvée, a non-vintage blend of real complexity and finesse that they prefer to talk of as a ‘multivintage’ wine. This is because it has up to 50% reserve wines in the blend, a very high proportion. As well as owning 20 hectares of its own vineyards, in Aÿ, Le Mesnil and Trépail, Krug source grapes from around 30 different crus. Almost all the vineyards sources are classified Grand Cru.

As well as the amazingly good Vintage cuvee, released only in very good years, Krug make a rosé (introduced in 1983) and two small production single-vineyard Champagnes which are among the most expensive wines in the world.

The first is Clos du Mesnil, a Blanc de Blancs (Chardonnay) from an enclosed 2 hectare vineyard purchased in 1971. It took a while to replant the vineyard and get it up to scratch, and the first release wasn’t until 1986, of the 1979 vintage. [This tasting was my first chance to try a Clos du Mesnil – they’re rare and seriously expensive.]

The second is Clos du Ambonnay, which is from a small Pinot Noir vineyard of 0.7 hectares, acquired in the mid-1990s. The first release of this was the 1995, in 2008. I’ve never tried it: it’s even more rare and expensive that the Clos du Mesnil.

1998 was, at the time, the hottest vintage since 1961. Chardonnay vineyards did particularly well, so the Vintage Krug 1998 is rich in Chardonnay. It’s also the last vintage of the 1990s since 1999 wasn’t released as a vintage Champagne. This was a really successful vintage at Krug, it seems.

UK retail prices are given in brackets.

Krug Clos du Mesnil 1998
Complex, aromatic, toasty nose with subtle herby and citrussy notes. The palate is amazingly bright and fresh with tight, complex, toasty, citrussy fruit and notes of vanilla and herbs. Very bright with high acidity. Finishes youthful and a little herby. 96/100 (£720 per bottle)

Krug 1998
Complex, warm, toasty, bready, herby nose is aromatic and persistent. The palate is tight, youthful and complex with high acidity and a distinctive, tightwound, herbal character. Really complex with high acidity. Very youthful, and strongly savoury. 95/100 (£230 per bottle)

Krug Grande Cuvée NV
Tight, fresh, slightly toasty and aromatic with lovely lemony freshness. Some herby complexity. The palate is wonderfully bright and pure with tight lemony fruit, as well as subtle toastiness. Really refined and sophisticated, this is just beautiful. 93/100 (£115 btl)

Krug Rosé NV
Pale salmon colour. Subtle strawberry fruity notes on the herby, toasty nose. The palate is tight, pure and fresh with some soft strawberry fruit emerging on the finish. Some herbal character here, too. A complex wine. 92/100 (£220 btl)

See also: a tasting with Remi Krug

Wines tasted 10/08. Notes below are from 09/05.

Krug Grande Cuvée NV
Lovely fresh full herbal nose is very expressive with a subtle hint of greenness and some complex toasty notes. The palate has great concentration. It’s fresh and bright with high acid and a slightly herby edge. Complex and full with an acidic finish. A serious Champagne, but really needs a bit of time to show itself at its best. Very good/excellent 92/100

Krug Vintage 1988
Quite a deep colour. A beautiful, deep intense nose with subtle nutty and toasty notes. The powerful, intense savoury palate has wonderful freshness and bold complexity. Quite tight and lean: savoury, complex and full. Fantastic stuff with a long life ahead of it. Excellent 95/100

Krug Vintage 1989
Incredible rich open nose showing honeyed, toasty, rich fruit with some peach and apricot notes. It’s quite profound. The palate is rich, showing some evolution. It’s bold and hauntingly complex. Fantastically rich and opulent with a nice richness of texture. Excellent 98/100

Krug Vintage 1990
Very refined complex nose: tight, rich, toasty, slightly honeyed ripe apricotty notes here. It’s beguiling, complex and full. The palate is crisp, tight and fresh with bright acidity. Complex and bold with lots of weight, but intensely fresh and bright with good acidity. A very serious wine with a bright future ahead of it. Brilliant. Excellent 97/100  

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