(Our host, Max)
My good friend Max, which is a dedicated Burgundy lover, has recently been infected with the Champagne bug - and not the worst mutation, as his "virus" is named: Krug.
We met at restaurant A.O.C, where they had prepared a tailor-made menu to match the Krug party. The food was brilliant, creative and elegant. We even sat in our own lounge, which was good for me, as I could use a little extra space to take some images. All these images are shot with no flash and pretty low aperture numbers (f/2.2 >> f/1.2) // Click for bigger images
I had really looked forward to this tasting, as Krug has always had that majestic allure. However – recent encounters with Dom Perignon and Comtes de Champagne, has made me think if my palate is drifting towards the small authentic producers and Champagnes with a strong footprint of terroir. I hoped to get some clues – but above all, just sit back and relax. I think I got some answers, but let's go through the wines first.
(Innovative snack presentation)
Once again, let me stress out that when I judge here, I am much harsher and use a shorter analytic approach, as I don't have more than one glass.
All Champagnes served blind with a serving temperature of 12 degrees.
Welcome in the lounge
NV Krug Grande Cuvée (disgorged 2007)
Fairly innocent Champagne. Toasted for sure, with butter, vanilla and some citrus tickle. Taste is a bit boring - which sound harsh, but maybe it suffered from just being the first glass.
NV Krug Grande Cuvée (disgorged 2007 - same as the first one, so same TN).
The older disgorgement was a bit controversial. It's fairly deep scented, with burned butter and a round giving style. But it's overpowered by a rather evolved sherry note, which makes the Champagne feel flabby and in need of life.
Now we are talking. Glad I started out a bit conservative, because this wine was obvious of a much higher quality. A really giving Champagne, sourdough, flowers, malt and just a much deeper complexity than the first bottles. I have always considered the 1995 not particular high on acidity, but more a round and lush style. But it really surprised me here, providing good vibrant acidity – which overall takes the freshness to higher ground. Classic and brilliant – we are ready for more.
1998 Krug Vintage
First time I feel a Krug is actually reductive. The nose is really muted and on the verge of holding some edgy and not balance notes. However the acidity is really firm - so I could just be it's in a tunnel. Or have Krug change style? The 1998 remained a puzzle and on such a night, in this prestige line-up, it disappoints.
The 1995 might have been impressive, but this is another level. Magical intense and mind-blowing in complexity. It's evolved and seems perfect just now, as it combines oily fruit sensations of honey, cinnamon and just so rich and full of backbone character.
1996 Krug Vintage
At first, the panel hailed the 1990 in comparison, but we were to learn, that the 1996 was just a slow starter. I have often said the 1996 Vintage holds an electric energy level, like no other vintage I have ever tasted. If you don't know what it means, well - just buy the 1996 Krug Vintage. It's also so far the most vinous Champagne - of course very young, but this is actually interesting. My take is that, although we could all agree on its youth, I would never recommend hands off now. For sure it will gain a broader spectrum, but consider loosing these salty elements of seawater, seashells and chalk, which are a significant driver behind this magical energy. So it's a simple weighting of what to gain and what to loose with cellaring. Each sip of the 1996 just became better and better - a Champagne cut with diamond precision and majestic tallness. For those of you into points, I noticed several tasters marking this one close to the ultimate score.
We were beforehand warned, that jokers could appear and so we had the first one. It’s not a good Champagne – on the verge of passing the Over The Hill sign and the nose tells you that the components have seen better days. Notes of: Brownish apples, Crème Brûlée (to high dosage), burned butter and just notes of “old”. Taste can’t save it – the brownish notes are taking away all freshness and the high dosage kills it completely. As I haven’t tasted the 1985 Cristal before, I couldn’t say for sure if the bottle in hand was off.
1990 Krug “Clos du Mesnil”
This Champagne blew my mind completely and I actually spotted it to be a Clos du Mesnil. It’s a totally different style than the “Krug Vintage” – much more soil driven, crispier and possessing out of this world clarity. The nose is like a big field of flowers and I detected the most refined note of orange blossom – which just added to the complex touch. Taste is magical – holding lots of inner energy, chalk, soil and yes the forbidden word - terroir. When I drink a Champagne like this, I feel more in contact with nature (even if it sounds ridiculous) and I can relate it to; Apôtre, La Bolorée, Vigne d’Antan, Les Clos….etc. – and this is the essence of Champagne to me.
The 1988 have always been one of my all-time Krug favourites. Had it a couple of years ago, where it was performing like never before. It’s also good today, but not magical. The nose is broad, complex and powerful, but a dilemma occurred as a note of curry blended itself with the promising maritime notes. This was not good. Taste is better, as it’s mouth coating and extremely concentrated. Of course when a star is not shining one could begin to speculate whether the bottle was off. I don’t think so – but one can never rule out more bottle variation with Champagne because of the individual second bottle fermentation.
1989 Krug Vintage
Who would have thought the 1989 was better than the 1988? Not many – but this was the case for all tasters present. It might not be as deep as the ‘88, but for my part is was first of all a better sparkle and freshness. Secondly it opened a window to notes of ginger, spices and a lot of maritime notes, which to me made it just a fraction more intellectual. The 1988 plays with too much muscles in comparison and when having to make a quick verdict, we all voted for the 1989.
I have to praise the food here. This is one of the most genius dishes I have ever had with a rosé Champagne – WOW is an understatement here.
NV Krug Rosé
I will blend the TNs here, as it makes better sense to jump back and forth.
Under normal circumstances I would always praise a rosé Champagne with Krug’s profile. Krug is a bit tight, salted and holding subtle perfumes of red fruit and not a red fruit crazy monster. Selosse is a bit more in the fruit crazy direction and it’s a Champagne I know pretty well. It’s still a big teddy bear, with seductive expressive oak perfumes. But!!!!! The food did something incredible to Selosse, making the sweet oak perfumes feel like an exotic spice orgy and brought it to a level, which I have never seen before. Krug in comparison, felt more and more awkward.
They say “lowest cleavage” always wins in blind tasting – yup, 1-0 here.
1985 Krug Vintage
Back to Krug vintage land. Even though all wines were served blind, some speculated (me inclusive), that the 1982 and 1985 could be here, in this flight. But we all got both order and judgment wrong. The 1985 won the challenge and it’s interesting that it won with some of the same “tricks” the 1989 used against the 1988. It’s simply a better Champagne this night, because it has a better energy. Sure it’s evolved with brownish apples, acacia honey – but it’s also very deep and has profound notes of Christmas, especially the aroma of clove. Taste is fantastic pleasing and combines these evolved notes with good sparkle and acidity.
1982 Krug Vintage
There is no doubt that the 1982 are a Champagne with deeper layers than the 1985. Have we had more time and even the chance to get a second fill in our glasses, the challenge might have had the 1982 as the winner. I tasted the 1982 some months ago, where it also was a very slow starter. But that’s of course pure speculation; so let’s analyze what we have here and now. The 1982 have some of the same notes as the 1985 – a deep oily core with burned acacia honey, sourdough, yeast and malt beer flavors. Taste becomes gradually more and more impressive as it’s concentration and mouth feel are constantly on the rise. However the 1985 wins on its energy level, simple providing more tallness and intellectual drinking pleasure. Close call still and both brilliant Champagnes.
1979 Krug Vintage
The 1979 should have been competing against the 1973. However the 1973, didn’t make it to the tasting, as it was stuck somewhere in Germany. Our host told us, it arrived the day after and he promises that he will include it in his next tasting.
To some extend it was really a shame that this Champagne was served this late. Taken its age into account, it’s the freshest example we had this night. The nose holds, almonds, honey, toast with butter and just so profound and intellectual. Taste has both aged roundness, but also a fresh breeze from a high pitched and bright acidity. Fantastic Champagne.
1969 Krug Private Cuvée (0,375cl bottle)
1964 Krug Vintage (0,375cl bottle)
3 ringers entered. I rested pen and paper now.
First one was Sauternes, the 1970 La Tour Blanche from a magnum bottle. Really nice and fresh, despite it’s age.
Second one was a red Burgundy 2006 Lafon Volnay Champans, which was a nice bottle with red Pinot fruit, though with a somewhat funny combo of banana and buttermilk.
Third one – also a red, the 2006 Ornellaia, which present typical Cabernet fruit, but also medicine, vitamin pills and of course a lot of new born fruit with massive oak influence. It’s not a warm and alcohol driven wine, but to me a completely soulless wine. I have simply had enough of these designer Italian IGT wines, which are basically Bordeaux from Tuscany.
Krug delivered. At no point did I find any notes sticking out, like I have experiences recently with Dom Perignon and Comtes de Champagne. The class of Krug was clear as in some cases the Champagnes warmed up to at least 16 degrees in our glasses, without loosing focus or becoming flabby by too high dosage. Krug is Champagne with deep and multiple complex layers – the Montrachet of Champagne. In blind tastings; they are very hard to beat.
I can’t help to compare Krug against some of the new stuff I drink. It’s a game, which perhaps has no meaning, as one could simply ask; why compare? I might complain that Krug Vintage isn’t a particular soil and terroir driven wine – but I already knew that beforehand. And why even complain, if it just taste so bloody good? The answer is simple; there is no need to complain and I might worry too much. However, when tasting Clos du Mesnil – I know there is evidence for why I feel like this – it’s a Champagne which stirs my emotions and I guess that’s what it’s all about or?
Anyway – thank you for reading this far.
Cheers and salute to my good friend, Max.