Last week, I had the pleasure attending a special tasting of the House of Krug at K&L Wine Merchants. I was invited to the intimate tasting with about a dozen others by K&L’s Champagne buyer, Gary Westby.
It was definitely an exciting opportunity for me. I’ve tasted more than my share of Champagne, and sparkling wines, but precious little “luxury” Champagne.
In fact, the only such Champagne I can recall tasting was Dom Perignon, and that was many moons ago, before I gained an appreciation for Champagne. I didn’t care for it. I remember almost feeling guilty because I thought I should have enjoyed such an expensive bottle of wine.
Since then I’ve come to adore Champagne for the special beverage it is, but last week’s tasting was essentially my first taste of high-end Champagne.
The House of Krug
Krug was established in 1843 by Johann Joseph Krug, and silent partner Hippolyte de Vivès, a member of the family of the founder of Veuve Cliquot They produced the first Krug et Cie blend in 1845. After Joseph’s death in 1861, his son Paul was the first of five successive generations of Krugs in the business.
In 1999 Krug was acquired by the multinational luxury goods conglomerate LVMH Moët Hennessy • Louis Vuitton S.A. LVMH also owns grande marque Champagne houses Mercier, Moët & Chandon, Montaudon, Ruinart and Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin.
Despite LVMH’s majority ownership, the Krug family is still actively involved in all the key decisions of the house but does not manage the day-to-day operations. Olivier Krug, who has been in the business since 1989, became house director in 2009, the same year that LVMH named Margareth “Maggie” Henriquez President & CEO of Krug
Krug produces about 40,000 cases annually, and 80% of that production is the Krug Grand Cuvée. In addition to the Grand Cuvée, Krug also produces a multi-vintage Rosé, Vintage Brut, a vintage single vineyard blanc de blanc known as Clos du Mesnil, and a vintage single vineyard blanc de noir known as Clos d’Ambonnay, and older vintages release as Krug Collection series.
For an excellent more detailed deep dive on Krug, check out Richard Jennings “House of Krug and the Quest for Perfection”
The Krug US Brand Ambassador Garth Hodgdon presented four wines. He is a very knowledgeable and affable fellow who did a fine job of skillfully answering the questions that came his way – frequently with a keen sense of humor, and always in a thoughtful and focused manner.
While sharing Krug story, Hodgdon mentioned a couple of things I found particularly interesting.
The first is that, is that as noted in the aforementioned piece by Richard Jennings…
…unlike other great Champagne producers, Krug makes only prestige cuvées. Instead of its multi-vintage Grande Cuvée being a secondary wine, created after the vintage wine is assembled, Krug has, from the beginning, turned the region’s usual practice on its head by devoting its attentions to the multi-vintage Cuvée first, as the house’s flagship. – Richard Jennings
Krug doesn’t make any secondary, or entry-level wines. In fact, Hodgdon noted, all other Krug Champagne is measured against the Grand Cuvée. which is their least expensive wine.
The other thing Hodgdon shared with us was the Krug ID. Since September 2011, each bottle of Krug has a six digit number on the back label . You can type this number into a box on Krug’s website to learn the makeup of that particular bottling, including the vintage(s) in the wine, the percentage of grape varieties used, and when the bottle was disgorged. Hodgdon then whipped out his iPhone and demonstrated the very cool Krug app, which enables one to either type in or scan the code.
Most Champagne houses are very secretive about what goes into each bottle. Krug is leading the way among the great Champagne house in becoming more transparent.
As for the wines? Simple the best Champagne I’ve ever tasted! But I would love to taste Krug back to back blind against other luxury Champagne such as Dom Perigon, Cristal, or Salon.
My tasting notes follow:
- N.V. Krug Champagne Brut Grande Cuvée – Light yellow color with an abundance of rapidly rising pin prick sized bubbles and an explosion of complex, hazelnut, yeast, orange zest, dried cherry, and subtle honey aromas. On the palate, it’s broad, and rich with a delicate mousse and lively acidity. It shows delicious pear, hazelnut, lemon, and subtle honey flavors. Long satisfying finish. ID = 213032 Disgorged Spring 2013. 44% Pinot Noir, 35% Chardonnay, and 21% Pinot Meunier. Blend of 142 wines from 11 different years. Oldest wine from 1990, youngest wine from 2006. (95 pts.); Retail – $150
- 2003 Krug Champagne Vintage Brut – Golden yellow color with an abundance of rapidly rising pin prick sized bubbles, and rich hazelnut, brioche, citrus peel, and mineral aromas. On the palate, it’s complex, refined and well structured with a rich delicate mousse and ample apples, tart lemon, hazelnut, subtle spice and mineral flavors. Long finish. ID = 113015. Disgorged Winter 2012/13 Blend of 46% PN, 29% Chardonnay, and 25% Pinot Meunier. Known as “Vivacious Radiance” at Krug (93 pts.); Retail – $229
- 2000 Krug Champagne Vintage Brut – Pale yellow color with an abundance of rapidly rising pin prick sized bubbles, and penetrating almond, date, yeast, apple, citrus, ginger, vanilla and subtle spice aromas. On the palate, it intense and refined with a delicate creamy mousse, and apple, pear, mineral, lemon/lime, and subtle spice flavors. Long finish. ID = 412048; Disgorged Autumn 2012. Blend of 42% Pinot Noir, 43% Chardonnay, and 15% Pinot Meunier. Known as “Stormy Indulgence” at Krug (94 pts.); Retail – $229
- N.V. Krug Champagne Brut Rosé – Salmon color with an abundance of rapidly rising pin prick sized bubbles, and very appealing complex, sweet yeast raspberry,strawberry, citrus and subtle nutty aromas. On the palate it’s elegant and rich with a delicate, creamy mousse and ample red fruit flavors of raspberries, strawberry, and watermelon along with lemon/lime, mineral, hazelnut and a sublime savoriness. Long finish. A deathbed wine for me! ID = 113016. Oldest wine – 2000, youngest wine – 2006. Blend of 59% Pinot Noir, 33% Chardonnay, and % Pinot Meunier. Disgorged Winter 2012/2013 (96 pts.); Retail – $279
After the tasting, we were invited to partake of the bevy of bottles of Krug Champagne beckoning us…
Why, Yes….I will have another splash or three…
Just to see how the wines were evolving in the glass? Of course!
Just to fine tune my tasting notes? – Um sure…if you say so…
Just because it was a transcendent tasting, and who knows when I’ll be have the exquisite pleasure of passing through Krug-ville again?