Joseph Krug founded his eponymous house in 1843. Five years later, he documented his great vision for Krug in a cherry-red leather notebook, outlining the principles he saw as pertinent for producing champagne of unrivalled quality, such as: selecting only the finest elements from the greatest terrors; rejecting mediocre fruit; and making both a non-vintage and a vintage cuvée – common practice now, but revolutionary back then.
Although nowadays most houses produce both non-vintage and vintage champagnes, Krug remain unique in that their range consists of only prestige cuvées. Whereas the non-vintage champagne is the entry-level cuvée at most houses, Krug Grande Cuvée NV – priced at a similar level to the prestige cuvées of many other major champagne houses – 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 each year. 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 better 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.
The next step-up in quality level is vintage champagne. Again, where at most houses the vintage category champagnes situate themselves above the brut non-vintage, but below the top prestige cuvée range, at Krug the distinction is obsolete. Their vintage champagnes reveal the unique characteristics of each year; expert blends of expressive wines enhanced by more than ten years of maturity in the cellars, named to reflect their individual identities: Krug 2000 ‘Stormy Indulgence’; Krug 2002 ‘Ode to Nature’; Krug 2003 ‘Vivacious Radiance’; and Krug 2004; ‘Luminous Freshness’.
For our latest tasting, we presented ten Krug champagnes covering the first decade of this century: Krug Vintages 2000-2004 and Krug Grande Cuvée Editions 162-166 NV (base vintages 2006-2010), with Krug 2000 from both bottle and magnum.
The champagnes tasted are listed below in order of rank, by group average score. Tasting notes are all The Finest Bubble’s.
|Krug 2000 Magnum | Krug ID: 113005 | Group Avg. Score 19.1/20 | Rank: 1
43% CH, 42% PN, 15% PM | Lees Ageing: 12 Years | Disgorged: Winter 2013 | Dosage: 6 g/l | Post-Disgorgement Ageing: 5 Years
Big powerful nose – is this one of those ripe years? Lots of dried fruit, hints of marzipan and wow what a lovely mouthfeel! All the acidity, depth and loveliness is there and the length goes on and on. Acidity, peaches and cream and just so much nut flavour.
|Krug 2004 | Krug ID: 214041 | Group Avg. Score 19/20 | Rank: 2
39% CH, 37% PN, 24% PM | Lees Ageing: 9 Years | Disgorged: Spring 2014 | Dosage: 6 g/l | Post-Disgorgement Ageing: 4 Years
Colour is lighter yellow gold compared to others, which are noticeably darker. Lovely bright bubbles. Relatively soft on the nose and seems quite tight. Very bright acidity, could this be the 2004? Quite tight at present.
|Krug Grande Cuvée Edition 164 NV | Krug ID: 216016 | Group Avg. Score 18.9/20 | Rank: 3
48% PN, 35% CH, 17% PM | Base Vintage: 2008 | 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.
|Krug Grande Cuvée Edition 163 NV | Krug ID: 215039 | Group Avg. Score 18.7/20 | Rank: 4
37% PN, 32% CH, 31% PM | Base Vintage: 2007 | Reserve Wine: 27% | Lees Ageing: 7 Years | Disgorged: Summer 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 2000 | Krug ID: 412048 | Group Avg. Score 18.6/20 | Rank: 5
43% CH, 42% PN, 15% PM | Lees Ageing: 11 Years | Disgorged: Autumn 2012 | Dosage: 6 g/l | Post-Disgorgement Ageing: 6 Years
Darker gold with great little bubbles and wow – the signature nose of Krug! Big power of creaminess on the nose, all custard-like with hints of spice. Lots of fresh lemons and grapefruit: a slightly tropical edge. Lovely fresh acidty and great length, perhaps a little short, could this be the 2000? Slightly dry finish.
|Krug 2002 | Krug ID: 115009 | Group Avg. Score 18.5/20 | Rank: 6
40% PN, 39% CH, 21% PM | Lees Ageing: 12 Years | Disgorged: Winter 2015 | Post-Disgorgement Ageing: 3 Years
Seems very slightly darker, lovely gold colour. Less creamy nose, loads of pineapple notes and a lovely rich palate comes through. Loads of spiciness and power of lemons and grapefruit. Seems quite soft on the acidity.
|Krug 2003 | Krug ID: 214043 | Group Avg. Score 18.3/20 | Rank: 7
46% PN, 29% CH, 25% PM | Lees Ageing: 10 Years | Disgorged: Spring 2014 | Dosage: 6 g/l | Post-Disgorgement Ageing: 4 Years
Tight nose, hints of lemon and toasted nuts. Really great texture: seems very youthful and fresh. Again, this is still quite tight but very good and lovely elegance to the finish, just starting to get quite creamy. This is very good.
|Krug Grande Cuvée Edition 162 NV | Krug ID: 214024 | Group Avg. Score 18/20 | Rank: 8
44% PN, 35% CH, 21% PM | Base Vintage: 2006 | 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 165 NV | Krug ID: 416036 | Group Avg. Score 17.6/20 | Rank: 9
45% PN, 39% CH, 16% PN | Base Vintage: 2009 | 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 | Krug ID: 117003 | Group Avg. Score 17.5/20 | Rank: 10
45% PN, 39% CH, 16% PN | Base Vintage: 2010 | 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!