Last year, we blind tasted Krug Grande Cuvée Editions 159-163 NV (base vintages 2003-2007) with Jancis Robinson MW. Showcasing the very best of Krug and the subtle nuances of their famous non-vintage blend, we found the experience so interesting that we decided to offer it to consumers. And since a few more Grande Cuvées are now on the market, the opportunity to compare a greater range of Editions was too good to miss. As such, we assembled nine Krug Grande Cuvée Editions: 158-166 NV (base vintages 2002-2010) and two Krug vintages: Krug 2002 and Krug 2004, and headed down to the Lutyens Room at 67 Pall Mall for an evening of all things Krug.
Krug Grande Cuvée is not your average non-vintage. Priced at a similar level to the prestige cuvées of many other major champagne houses, it is a prestige cuvée in its own right. Like other non-vintages, Grande Cuvée consists of wine from several years: a base vintage (the youngest in the blend) and reserve wines from older vintages. What makes Grande Cuvée unique is that the proportion of reserve wines is unusually high (typically 30-50%) and the reserve wines are unusually old (the youngest Edition in this tasting, the 2010 base, features reserve wine from 1998).
“At Krug, we’re not about consistency but generosity. We don’t work to a rulebook or a formula and want to celebrate the differences from year to year” – Olivier Krug
Further, as Krug handle their multitude of reserves wines in individual batches before vinification (typically one grape variety, from one vineyard and one vintage), they have several hundred blending components to choose from for Grande Cuvée. Well over 100 different wines from more than 10 different vintages are typically chosen. For this reason, Krug prefer the term ‘multi-vintage’.
Given the typically high percentage of reserve wines from such old vintages, Krug manage to produce a very consistent style and quality with Grande Cuvée each year. However, with 50-70% of the blend coming from one base vintage, each Edition inevitably displays subtle differences that showcase the characteristics of that year.
In late 2016, Krug began numbering each Grande Cuvée blend to promote the individuality of each creation and allow the ageing capacity and potential complexity of Grande Cuvée to be understood. Now that Grande Cuvée displays its Edition on the label, the famous non-vintage can be fully appreciated as a series of difference releases – which can now be easily compared and explored.
“We are in the domain of creation, doing something unique, a masterpiece every year… every year there is one creation, one blend, one bottling, and this house has been doing this for 170 years” – Margareth Henriquez, Krug CEO
To our knowledge, this was the most comprehensive tasting of Krug Grande Cuvée Editions to date. It was our job to score the champagnes and identify the Editions and the vintages (if possible!). All eleven champagnes were served blind in a random order. They are presented below in chronological order with the vintage champagnes at the end.
|Krug Grande Cuvée Edition 158 NV | ID: 108002 | TFB Score: 18.5/20 | Group Avg. Score: 19.4/20
Base Vintage: 2002 | 44% PN, 36% CH, 20% PM | Reserve Wine: 42% | Lees Ageing: 5 Years | Disgorged: Winter 2008 | Dosage: 6 g/L | Post-Disgorgement Ageing: 10 Years
Very fine nose, great fruit and bright acidity. Some maturity, this is quite soft and lush and creamy. Wow, an older one and showing so gracefully.
|Krug Grande Cuvée Edition 159 NV | ID: 211021 | TFB Score: 19.5/20 | Group Avg. Score: 19.4/20
Base Vintage: 2003 | 51% PN, 30% CH, 19% PM | Reserve Wine: 37% | Lees Ageing: 7 Years | Disgorged: Spring 2011 | Dosage: 6 g/L | Post-Disgorgement Ageing: 7 Years
This has a vintage style maybe? Wow, freshness and ripe fruits so is this the 2002? Lots of lees character and apples and lemons and layers of richness; great length.
|Krug Grande Cuvée Edition 160 NV | ID: 214025 | TFB Score: 19/20 | Group Avg. Score: 18.8/20
Base Vintage: 2004 | 44% PN, 33% CH, 23% PM | Reserve Wine: 35% | Lees Ageing: 9 Years | Disgorged: Spring 2014 | Dosage: 6 g/L | Post-Disgorgement Ageing: 4 Years
This has some bottle ageing, lots of creamy character and some gooseberry and vanilla. Impressive power, lovely acidity and great length.
As we tasted, it became quite clear that distinguishing between Krug Grande Cuvée Editions in a blind tasting was going to be a very difficult task. Although there was no doubting that each glass displayed an inherently different personality, any vintage characteristics (such as acidity levels and ‘type of fruit’) were somewhat masked by the high percentage of reserve wines.
Age, or lack of it, emerged as the most useful indicator. The younger Editions clearly had a youthful zest, real show-off champagnes that demanded attention; whilst the older Editions had all the creamy maturity you’d expect from a vintage cuvée, rather than a non-vintage blend.
|Krug Grande Cuvée Edition 161 NV | ID: 313037 | TFB Score: 19/20 | Group Avg. Score: 18.3/20
Base Vintage: 2005 | 44% PN, 37% CH, 19% PM | Reserve Wine: 32% | Lees Ageing: 6 Years | Disgorged: Summer 2013 | Dosage: 6 g/L | Post-Disgorgement Ageing: 5 Years
This has a big personality and real richness on the palate. Quite lush and ripe fruit. Wow, creamy and rich and second taste a bit more bottle age showing very nicely; great length.
|Krug Grande Cuvée Edition 162 NV | ID: 214024 | TFB Score: 18.5/20 | Group Avg. Score: 17.9/20
Base Vintage: 2006 | 44% PN, 35% CH, 21% PM | Reserve Wine: 40% | Lees Ageing: 7 Years | Disgorged: Spring 2014 | Dosage: 6 g/L | Post-Disgorgement Ageing: 4 Years
Really bright and fresh with lots of dried fruit character, nice lees and seemingly more bitterness on the end than the others.
|Krug Grande Cuvée Edition 163 NV | ID: 215039 | TFB Score: 19.5+/20 | Group Avg. Score: 18.9/20
Base Vintage: 2007 | 37% PN, 32% CH, 31% PM | Reserve Wine: 27% | Lees Ageing: 7 Years | Disgorged: Spring 2015 | Dosage: 6 g/L | Post-Disgorgement Ageing: 3 Years
Really quite lush and lots of fruit. Wow lees character and freshness. This is very fine and goes on with great length and finesse.
|Krug Grande Cuvée Edition 164 NV | ID: 216016 | TFB Score: 18.5/20 | Group Avg. Score: 17.9/20
Base Vintage: 2008 | 48% PN, 35% CH, 17% PM | Reserve Wine: 38% | Lees Ageing: 7 Years | Disgorged: Spring 2016 | Dosage: 6 g/L | Post-Disgorgement Ageing: 2 Years
Lots of lemons, apricots and richness on the palate. This has quite a roundness and lots of lees character and more honey and freshness. Could this be 2008 base? On re-taste, it has opened up and become even more rich.
Interestingly, identifying the two vintage champagnes amongst the pack wasn’t easy either: likely a consequence of the age and diversity of reserve wines in each blend lending the older Grande Cuvées surprisingly mature characteristics. A few guests spotted Krug 2004 but Krug 2002 was one of the most elusive, with many confusing it for the older Grande Cuvées, Edition 158 NV and Edition 159 NV. Rather than reflecting poorly on Krug 2002, it is a testament to the youthful vibrancy of a vintage now sixteen years old, that will age magnificently for years to come.
|Krug Grande Cuvée Edition 165 NV | ID: 416036 | TFB Score: 19.5/20 | Group Avg. Score: 18.3/20
Base Vintage: 2009 | 45% PN, 39% CH, 16% PM | Reserve Wine: 31% | Lees Ageing: 6 Years | Disgorged: Autumn 2016 | Dosage: 6 g/L | Post-Disgorgement Ageing: 2 Years
This has youthful character, fresh lemons & ripe apples. Slight Sauvignon personality; with great freshness, ripe peaches, apricots and good lees character. 165 or 166?
|Krug Grande Cuvée Edition 166 NV | ID: 117003 | TFB Score: 19/20 | Group Avg. Score: 18.3/20
Base Vintage: 2010 | 45% PN, 39% CH, 16% PM | Reserve Wine: 42% | Lees Ageing: 6 Years | Disgorged: Winter 2017 | Dosage: 6 g/L | Post-Disgorgement Ageing: 1 Year
Young and zesty and quite a show-off. Youthful, good length and creamy custard character, this has lots of great elements and is very moreish!
|Krug 2002 | ID: 415064 | TFB Score: 18.5/20 | Group Avg. Score: 18/20
40% PN, 39% CH, 21% PM | Lees Ageing: 12 Years | Disgorged: Autumn 2015 | Dosage: 6 g/L | Post-Disgorgement Ageing: 3 Years
Quite tight on the nose, and some notes of maturity and creaminess with quite a lot of ripe fruit; a really great texture, so is this 2002?
|Krug 2004 | ID: 214041 | TFB Score: 19.5/20 | Group Avg. Score: 18.4/20
37% PN, 39% CH, 24% PM | Lees Ageing: 9 Years | Disgorged: Spring 2014 | Dosage: 6 g/L | Post-Disgorgement Ageing: 4 Years
Some of that creamy character, lots of fresh fruits and lees and lime notes. Brightness and creamy plums and zingy on the palate, very good.
Whilst scoring champagne is a worthwhile exercise to determine personal favourites, ranking champagnes of this stature is a somewhat arbitrary process that inevitably reveals more about individual preferences rather than distinguishing good from bad. Notably, the point differential between the lowest and highest scored champagnes was just 1.5/20.
That said, the table below shows the order of rank on the evening. In general, the group seemed to prefer Grande Cuvée Editions with an older base vintage. Edition 159 NV placing as joint favourite came as no surprise to us. Based on the slightly ‘weaker’ vintage of 2003, the philosophy adopted to produce Grande Cuvée means higher reserve wines are typically plundered to keep the quality high in poorer years (in this case, 37%). The overall group average score for every champagnes tasted was 18.5/20, a testament to the consistent supremacy of every Krug champagne.
|Group Average Scores | Average Overall: 18.5|
|1||19.4||Krug Grande Cuvée Edition 159 NV|
|=||19.4||Krug Grande Cuvée Edition 158 NV|
|3||18.9||Krug Grande Cuvée Edition 163 NV|
|4||18.8||Krug Grande Cuvée Edition 160 NV|
|6||18.3||Krug Grande Cuvée Edition 161 NV|
|=||18.3||Krug Grande Cuvée Edition 165 NV|
|=||18.3||Krug Grande Cuvée Edition 166 NV|
|10||17.9||Krug Grande Cuvée Edition 164 NV|
|=||17.9||Krug Grande Cuvée Edition 162 NV|