Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Krug - quality obsessed and please don't mention the oak!

Posted by Giles Burke-Gaffney, Buying Director
Last week's visit to Krug was an enlightening and inspiring trip.
I am very sensitive to the silver-tongued and often very skillfull marketing speak of many Grand Marque Champagne houses. Together with marketing smoke and mirrors, their skill lies also in blending and producing Champagnes that meet people's expectations with impressive consistency. Krug, however, are supposed to be a little different and, reassuringly, my trip confirmed exactly that. They may be owned by a giant of the luxury goods industry but it has been sensitively kept in family hands, with Olivier Krug at the helm. Talking passionately about the vineyards in the middle of a visit to Krug Clos du Mesnil, Olivier made the close connection of the Krug family to the vines and their terroirs very clear.

A tour of the cellars revealed the incredible parts that can make up Grand Cuvee. First stop in the winery is the barrel room, where all Krug undergoes the primary fermentation. These are old barrels so the aim is not to bring any direct oak flavour or "fat" to the wines, Olivier stressed, they are more a function of Krug's painstaking plot by plot approach to harvest and vinifcation. These smaller vessels also add complexity by allowing a certain limited amount of oxygen contact. This approach is further highlighted by the battery of micro steel tanks in the cuverie. The oldest single wine there being a 16 yo parcel of Grand Cru Bouzy, waiting for its call to the Grand Cuvee stage.

Apart from tasting a fascinating Grand Cuvee from bottle and magnum, which as of next year will have id codes on the back of each bottle from which you can tell disgorgement date, we were also introduced to the 2000 vintage of Krug and Clos Mesnil. The former was stylish, impressive, rich but composed and already very user friendly now but with the guts to suggest a good ageing potential, the latter was a sheer delight - the mineral, chalk and lemon-stuffed green olive character of Clos Mesnil is so strong and ever present in all of its wines. The 2000 has this in spades whilst showing the round, pliable character of the vintage. Another example of Krug's fastidious approach to quality was the 1999 Clos du Mesnil, having disgorged it they took a very late decision not to release it. Its a good drop but Krug just simply did not feel it had the requisite Clos du Mesnil character to warrant an official release.

The final piece de resistance was the Clos d'Ambonnay 1998, an excellent red fruited Champagne of great intensity and, no doubt, with a price tag to match!