Officially launched in London on September 5th 2017 by Olivier Krug, this was our first taste of the exciting new release. Nicknamed by Julie Cavil Krug’s Oenologist “Luminous Freshness”, Olivier shared how the House originally considered releasing 2004 before 2002, even disgorging some bottles in preparation back in 2014 before the 2002 had been disgorged. However, Chef de Caves Eric Lebel decided it wasn’t ready and Olivier, comparing his thoughts on the bottle disgorged in 2014 with the glass in front of him, paid testament to the importance of an extra two years of ageing.
As the release of Krug Vintage 2004 marks three consecutive Krug vintages – the first such occurrence since the trilogy of 1988, 1989 and 1990 (interestingly 1989 was released before 1988, also the last occurrence of a non-consecutive release, prior to 2003 being released before 2002) – we tasted the latest trilogy of vintages, 2002, 2003 and 2004 side-by-side.
The 2004 season followed a hot year, 2003 saw heavy spring frosts that delayed the bud burst and the heat of the summer resulted in small crop that was moderate in quality, this heat was better for Chardonnay; by autumn growers saw many buds had set for the following year, the moderate winter of 2003 and long cool spring in 2004 saw an abundance of fruit set, later than normal. In late summer the grapes ripened perfectly in the radiant sunshine. The beautiful weather at harvest time from mid-September to early October made for a generous year following the challenging extremes and limited yields of 2003. There was a breadth of choice of grapes in 2004, offering more characterful yet mature grapes than in any previous harvest.
“The wines of the year held great promise,” says Krug Cellar Master Eric Lebel. “They were at once highly expressive, bright and undeniably elegant. The vivacity, tension and citrus notes of the Meuniers and the shining Chardonnays, combined with the backbone of Pinot Noir, gave rise to a very balanced year.”
Krug Vintage 2004
Krug ID: 216022 | 39% CH, 37% PN, 24% PM | Dosage: 6g/l | Disgorged: Spring 2016 | Ageing: 13 years on the lees
Slightly light on the nose right after pouring; with few minutes in the glass it comes more forward with grapefruit, concentrated lemon and apricot. On the palate lots of depth and weight of fruit, great mouth-feel with fresh acidity and fruit-forward flavour and wow, what a backbone! Feel like its holding back at present has great weight of fruit and loveliness; apricots and nuttiness just starting to open and just hints of those brioche notes that come out with age. Great length, real subtlety and a hint of salinity on the finish. You can see this champagne ageing for 15-20 years. 19/20
Oliver had arranged for us to taste the Krug Grande Cuvée Editions with the respective vintages as a base year. Grande Cuvée is quite simply Olivier’s favourite topic and he seized the opportunity to share the philosophy of this annual creation. Although now being released as Editions, the House are insistent on the blend not becoming simply an NV with ‘base vintage x’. “You have to the remove the vintage,” Olivier shared. “The idea is to re-create the dream of the founder and say, which elements can I take from the vintage and make Krug Grande Cuvée.”
Indeed, Olivier attributes the success of the Grande Cuvée Editions to it changing the story of Champagne. “This is a sommelier’s dream. We have given both the on-trade and the private consumer something to explain – a beautiful story to tell that translates well.” We were fortunate enough to taste a bottle of the elusive Krug Grande Cuvée Edition 158 NV (with 2002 as the youngest wine). As 2002 preceded the beginning of the Edition phase, these bottles were never purposefully kept and were found after the re-labelling. Disgorged in 2008, this Edition 158 had less than 5 years on the lees, whereas the later Editions are aged for at least 2-3 years longer.
MUSIC MOMENT – Krug have worked with Lianne La Havas for the 2004 vintage and when I tasted it for the second time with the music on quite loud, your perception of the Champagne does change; I found it softened the acidity and some of the fruit characteristics came forward. To many this is just an illusion, but the science championed by Oxford Professor Dr. Charles Spence has proven music can influence how people taste.
Krug Grande Cuvée Edition 160 NV (Based on 2004)
Krug ID: 214031 | 44% PN, 33% CH, 23% PM | Dosage: 6 g/l | Disgorged: Spring 2014 | Wines: 121 | Vintages: 12, Oldest: 1990, Youngest: 2004
Has some lovely freshness and interesting complexity with concentrated orange blossom and lemon richness and then on the palate bundles of nuttiness and apricot and dried fruits; great length and lushness. This is a rather nice base on 2004 and is being re-released for the 2nd time alongside Krug Vintage 2004. Has 35% reserve wines so 65% is from the 2004 vintage. 18/20
Krug Vintage 2003
Krug ID: 115023 | 46% PN, 29% CH, 25% PM | Dosage: 6 g/l | Disgorged: Winter 2014/2015 | Ageing: 12 years on the lees
Immediate lemon and marmalade hints on the nose and palate. Slightly hollow in the middle. Lots of Chardonnay. 17.5/20
Krug Grande Cuvée Edition 159 NV (Based on 2003)
Krug ID: 215040 | 51% PN, 30% CH, 19% PM | Dosage: 6 g/l | Disgorged: Spring 2015 | Wines: 120 | Vintages: 10, Oldest: 1988, Youngest: 2003
Loads of apricot flavours. Edition 159 is Olivier’s favourite – a small and challenging year, they wanted 2003 as an experiment because such ripe years are so rare. Has a 2003-ness, slightly hollow in the middle. 18.5/20
Krug Vintage 2002
Krug ID: 415064 | 40% PN, 39% CH, 21% PM | Dosage: 5g/l | Disgorged: Autumn 2015 | Ageing: 12 years on the lees
Huge power as ever, very upfront. Loads of creaminess, incredible structure but still very youthful. Brioche flavours on the palate. Lingers forever. Has so much lushness, power and fruit: still so youthful, this doesn’t seem to be showing any more age from its release some 18 months ago. 20/20
Krug Grande Cuvée Edition 158 NV (Based on 2002)
Krug ID: 108002 | 44% PN, 36% CH, 20% PM | Dosage: 6 g/l | Disgorged: Winter 2007 | Wines: 76 | Vintages: 10, Oldest: 1988, Youngest: 2002
Last of the production before it went out of the warehouse before the Editions started. With 2002 base, this is really rich and creamy with length that goes on and on. Can’t get much riper and more lush flavours and power than this. 19.5/20
Krug Grande Cuvée Edition 164 NV (Based on 2008)
Krug ID: 216016 | 48% PN, 35% CH, 17% PM | Dosage: 6 g/l | Disgorged: Spring 2016 | Wines: 127 | Vintages: 11, Oldest: 1990. Youngest: 2008
127 different components with the oldest wine from 1990 and the youngest 2008, with 38% reserve wines and 62% from the 2008 vintage. Today the trademark nuttiness and brioche is really forward, follows through with loads of fruit character, apricot and apple being more dominant and a healthy dollop of spicy oak character; all held together with fresh acidty and length goes on and on especially those dried fruit and nuttiness character. Opens up on the nose when you go back that typical slightly coconut edge to the vanilla brioche! Showing great today. 19/20
Note on Future releases: There is no Krug 2005 being released so we assume the next vintage will be 2006 probably around Spring 2019, our speculation and not any official notice. The editions are also likely to move through quite fast as 165th and 166th editions are quite small releases so in a years time we will be seeing the release the 167th edition.