Most Champagne houses release a Non-Vintage Champagne alongside their various cuvées but not Krug. Then again Krug is not like ‘most’ Champagne houses. Krug releases numbered editions and this year sees the release of the Krug Grande Cuvée 167th Edition – a blend of 191 wines from 13 vintages dating from 1995 to 2011. Anne Krebiehl MW tastes the new wine with Krug’s Jérome Jacoillot, alongside the 166th Edition and the Krug Rosé 23rd Edition.
Before the tasting Jacoillot emphasises the three principles at the heart of every new Krug edition
Some, if not to say most, Champagne houses release non-vintage cuvées. Champagne Krug, however, launches numbered editions. While the consistency of Krug’s spirit, even more so than style, is at the centre of their endeavours, the idea of evening out vintage variation to arrive at a consistent flavour, the initial necessity at the heart of non-vintage cuvées, is absent here.
2019 marks the release of the 167th Edition of Krug Grande Cuvée. Jérome Jacoillot, a member of Krug’s tasting committee under chef de cave Eric Lebel, was in London to present it alongside its predecessor, the 166thedition as well as the 23rdedition of Krug Rosé, complete with a pretty, fluted new glass designed especially for Krug Rosé.
The three principles at the heart of every new Krug edition
Jacoillot recounted the three principles at the heart of every new Krug edition: the first is individuality. Every plot is kept separate. Jacoillot was also keen to emphasise the limited influence of wood: While the first fermentation happens in barrel, the base wines are racked into stainless steel tanks to mature.
The second principle is the art of blending. Krug has a meticulous and methodical approach here. They make about 250 different wines each vintage and these are tasted by the entire tasting committee just after their first fermentation. Just after Christmas the entire team tastes all the reserve wines – of which there are many – a number was not disclosed. After that all the wines from the most recent vintage are tasted again. Every tasting committee member logs tasting notes and thus, after a while, each wine has a multitude of tasting notes from different tasters captured at different stages of its development. Chef de cave Eric Lebel then works his magic on the basis of all of these impressions.
Jacoillot notes his admiration: “We taste the still wines. I joined the house seven years ago and have tasted since. But how can you imagine what it will be like later with bubbles?”
The third principle is patience, Jacoillot says. Each edition spends at least seven years on lees which, along with the large proportion of reserve wines, explains the salty complexity at the core of each edition. “The goal is different every year, but we want to create the same emotion,” Jacoillot says before we start tasting.
Krug Grande Cuvée 166th Edition
A blend of 140 wines from 13 vintages dating from 1996 to 2010. 45% Pinot Noir, 39% Chardonnay and 16% Pinot Meunier, reserve wines make up 42% of the blend.
This opens with a whiff of salted shortcrust followed by an aura of apricot, a touch of pine resin and an immense freshness. This is like a nose full of salty sea air. These flavours persist on the palate where the earthiness of very freshly cut white field mushrooms provides a lovely backdrop for all of those salty seaweed notes. This has brisk, almost jolting allure.
Krug Grande Cuvée 167th Edition
A blend of 191 wines from 13 vintages dating from 1995 to 2011. 47% Pinot Noir, 36% Chardonnay and 17% Pinot Meunier, reserve wines make up 42% of the blend.
Compared to its predecessor, this is altogether rounder, creamier, mellower. At the core it has that same saltiness, that umami depth which in Krug always reminds me of these Japanese seaweed crackers. So while that core flavour is very recognisable, it comes in a gentler package than 166th– but I have to say I prefer the briskness of 166.
A blend of 60 wines from 10 vintages dating from 2000 to 2011. It is a roséd’assemblage made with 13% red Pinot Noir from a special plot in Aÿ. 45% Chardonnay, 29% Pinot Noir and 26% Pinot Meunier, reserve wines make up 56% of the blend.
Served in its fluted glass, this opens with smoky depth before broadening out into notions of cream and strawberry. The palate is more slender than the nose suggests and presents ultra-fine mousse and a lovely tension amid the scented strawberry notes.