36 Hours In… the rarified world of Krug
Author: Tom Cave
A visit to Krug was always going to be done with style. No surprise, then, that we were ushered to the ‘proper’ premier seats on the 07.55 Eurostar to Paris. Then, rather than walking the notoriously dingy way from the Gare du Nord to the Gare de l’Est, we were whisked away to a small delicatessen off the Champs Elysées to be treated to a tapas lunch including some of the tastiest Bellotta ham accompanied by Krug’s fine Grande Cuvée as well as its exquisite Rosé. Both proved excellent accompaniments to the food; an ideal transit lunch.
The journey continued on the newly constructed TGV to Champagne-Ardenne in under an hour – which passed sooner for most as a deep power-nap proved irresistible – before arriving at Maison Krug’s workmanlike cellars in the heart of Reims.
Here, among ranks of venerable casks stacked six high, we were to taste from cask and tank about 10 samples of still Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier from the myriad of plots which in time form Krug’s Champagnes.
Head winemaker Eric Lebel commented on each one and its role in making up the eventual wine. The emphasis being on the sheer number of parcels, from different terroirs, ages, and vinifications, that go into crafting its wines. Olivier Krug emphasised at every stage the House’s aim was to make a non-vintage wine (Krug’s version deservedly bears the noble moniker “Grande Cuvée” – and don’t ever refer to it as ‘NV’…) which was consistent and every bit as good as its Vintage.
We reconvened before dinner and the first taste of Krug’s newest release – the 2003 vintage. This was, for the whole of Europe, a complicated year, but it is with a wine like this that Krug’s fastidious selection of only the very best sites wins through. Initially, it tasted of classic brioche, hints of honey, a touch of pear too though it was the wine’s sheer delicious volume that struck me most. Utterly gorgeous weight and, while it is ready to go, it will be intriguing to watch how it ages with time. It’s a vintage Krug can be confident to release; perhaps the mighty 2002 is next to come, but this latter will be so reticent the 2003 fills the breach with panache.
Following the 2003 we tasted 2000, a vintage that Krug was unsure of whether to declare but it is developing agreeably well. This was followed by a Grande Cuvée released in 2003, which, with a jeroboam of the 2001-release at dinner, served to emphasise just how superbly the Grande Cuvée matures – proving Krug’s philosophy (and I’m sure Aristotle’s had he been there): “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”