The Many Delights Of Krug Champagne

Roberto Viernes
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Wednesday - December 24, 2008
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At least once a year I profess my love for Krug Champagne. And each year I have an awesome experience with Champagne that leaves me yearning for more.

I am blessed to report that I had another one of those experiences last week (luckily right before I caught a cold). I was a part of a Krug Vertical tasting that included Krug Grande Cuvee, Vintages 1996, 1995, 1990 and 1988. And if that was not enough, we finished it with Krug Rose!

Krug Grande Cuvee ($210) is the ultimate “go-to” Champagne. In fact, just a couple of weeks ago I served a friend who says, “I don’t drink Champagne,” some Grande Cuvee. His immediate reaction after I poured him a taste was “Wow! This isn’t like any Champagne I’ve ever tasted.”

You’ve got that right. The Multi-Vintage Grande Cuvee can be a blend of almost 50 different villages, all three grapes (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Meunier), up to 10 different vintages (some maybe a dozen years old). This all results in a Champagne that is altogether elegant and wonderfully complex. Flavors range from freshly baked bread to ripe orchard fruits like apple, pear and tangerine. There are scents of honey, hints of spiced vanilla and a texture that caresses the palate. Krug Grande Cuvee is always ready to drink right away, but can also benefit if you want to save it for a special occasion down the road. You can’t go wrong with Krug Grande Cuvee.

The 1996 Krug Vintage Brut ($350) was released amid a firestorm of huge ratings from critics. 1996 is agreed upon as one of the classic vintages in Champagne. And it truly will be one of the many greatest Krug has produced, in my opinion. Those at the tasting agreed that the quality is absolutely amazing. The superbly ripe fruit constellation is full and bright with an amazing concentration. The structure and balance of acidity with fruit is inspiring. It has tension like bridge - if all the right pieces were not in place, it would fall apart. But it indeed maintains its integrity and is thrilling Champagne. That said, it is an impetuous Champagne and still years beyond maturity. I remember saying that is was “painfully good” because of its intensity as well as our lack of patience. It will continue to improve for 15 years or more to find even loftier heights.

The 1995 Krug Vintage Brut ($339) is another heralded vintage from Krug. It does not quite stand up to the 1996 in terms of intensity or structure. It is more pleasant at this point with a fatter appeal on the palate (with apparently less acidity). It is more flattering and easier to drink. To me, it is more flowery with a leaning toward the poached-fruit profile with the Chardonnay flavors coming to the fore. This Krug will reach maturity sooner, indeed, over the next decade or so. If this tasting was a beauty pageant, as gorgeous as it is, it would not be wearing the crown.

The 1990 Krug Vintage ($389) is a wonderfully hedonistic Champagne already. 1990 is a vintage that is certainly on par with the 1996. It is showing such wonderful flavors with biscuits, custard and apple pie all packed in a titillating and satisfying texture. It is round and velvety with a hint of coffee and mocha and finish that goes on and on. This bottle was starting to shows signs of maturity with plenty of secondary aromas and flavors. However, I have had other bottles that seemed spritelier. This will still continue to improve for another five to 10 years, adding depth and nuance. This is amazing Champagne.

As if you thought it couldn’t get any better, the 1988 Krug Vintage ($389) is another rock star! It seemed surprisingly fresher than the 1990 and more in common with the 1996, but with more maturity. It had a more citrus bend to it with a laser like acidity that takes off on a jet-like finish. It shows no signs of tiring. I wish I could have seen what the wine would taste like after several hours of being open. But it was already gone. If you have any, I would-n’t rush for it just yet. I see it still improving over the next eight to 10 years and beyond.

Who said Champagne does not age well?

We finished the tasting with a killer bottle of MV Krug Rose. This lightly tinted rose smacks of minerals, sweet red fruits and a baked stollen. After having all the vintage Champagne, the Rose was so refreshing with more effervescence (as Champagnes age, they lose their effervescence). Every single one of these Champagnes is a joy to drink individually, but together they made for an unforgettable experience.

Roberto Viernes is a master sommelier. E-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
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