Olivier Krug was in town last week for the launch of the 2004 vintage Krug. Unsurprisingly, there wasn’t a spare seat in the house – a gem of a Georgian house in edgy Whitechapel, as it happens. Olivier charms everyone and a Krug tasting isn’t something you miss without a very good reason (death throes, exile, that sort of thing). I must say I do find that a Krug tasting at 10.30 in the morning puts a shine on the rest of the day. The rest of the week, in fact.
The tasting turned out to be even more exciting than anticipated. We tasted four Krugs, starting with the current Grande Cuvée (Krug’s multi-vintage flagship, aka non vintage), the 164th since Joseph Krug created it, as Cuvée No 1, in 1843. The debutante 2004 followed, then the vintage 2002 and finally the 160th Grande Cuvée, the one based on the 2004 harvest, or “composed around it”, as Krug puts it. A limited quantity of this 160ème Edition is being released – the first time Krug has released a later tranche of Grande Cuvée in this way (see details at the end). As a point of interest, 2004 marks a third successive vintage – only the second time Krug has released a trilogy. The previous one was 1988, ’89 and 90.
My tasting notes (with scores) are below, but I shall sum up here in a couple of sentences for those for whom tasting notes are a yawn. The 2004 is dazzlingly good, but the Krug that stole the show for me was the Grande Cuvée 160th edition. The current Grande Cuvée is as fine as any in its first year of release. The bottle that puzzled me was the 2002, one of the great Champagne vintages, but Krug '02 appears currently to be in mid metamorphosis.
A note on Krug ID: every bottle has a 6-digit ID code which you can enter on krug.com or the Krug app to get detailed information and the cellar master Eric Lebel's tasting notes.
Krug Grande Cuvée (current release, the 164th)
Based on (“composed around”) the 2008 harvest; a blend of 127 wines from 11 years, the youngest 2008 and the oldest 1990; disgorged in spring 2016. 48% Pinot Noir, 37% Chardonnay, 17% Pinot Meunier. Krug ID 216016
Nose: almond nougat, citrus, apricot, apple and biscuit; emergent brioche and a hint of vanilla.
Palate: intense candied citrus and citrus zest, pink grapefruit juice, stem ginger, toasted nuts, riveting acidity and a tantalising cherry-cum-kirsch note on a long finish. It will age extremely well – ten years and more. 96/100
Disgorged in spring 2014 (when they didn’t know whether they’d release this or 2002 first). Unusual in having more Chardonnay than Pinot Noir: 39% Chardonnay, 37% Pinot Noir, 24% Pinot Meunier. Olivier is reminded of the 1998, which also had slightly more Chardonnay than Pinot Noir. Krug’s oenologist summed up 2004 with the words “luminous freshness”. Krug ID 214041
Nose: vividly bright and fresh, but delicate; floral, citrus, orange blossom honey.
Palate: honey, citrus, biscuit, brioche, walnut and hazelnut, creamy middle, but tight knit with radiant acidity. Great purity. Shimmering with intensity and energy. 96/100
Disgorged autumn 2015, nearly 18 months after 2004, and released after the 2003 vintage. 40% Pinot Noir, 39% Chardonnay, 21% Pinot Meunier. Krug ID 415064
Deeper colour than the 2004.
Nose: toasty, honeyed, open, less high-toned and floral than 2004.
Palate: powerful, fleshy, rich, both broad and deep, with toasted bread and biscuit flavours; less obvious acidity, but no shortage of it. If I had this in my cellar, I’d leave it for 18 months before I opened it (assuming I had some other Krug to drink meanwhile). 94/100
Grande Cuvée 160ème Edition
Based on (“composed around) 2004; a blend of 121 wines from 12 years, the youngest 2004, the oldest 1990. 35% reserve wines. 44% Pinot Noir, 33% Chardonnay, 23% Pinot Meunier; disgorged spring 2014, like the 2004 vintage. Krug ID 214031
Nose: expressive, sublimely fresh, but honeyed; mirabelle, apricot, citrus zest.
Palate: candied citrus, crystallised ginger, brioche and biscuit joining the stone fruits and citrus zest. Creamy, chalk-smooth texture, deep, rich layers, thrilling energy. 98/100
The rrp of Krug 2004 is £220–£250. A limited quantity of the 160ème Edition is being released and sold together with the vintage 2004 as Les Créations de 2004: a wooden case containing three bottles of each has an rrp of around £900. This is the first time Krug has released a second tranche of a Grande Cuvée, having put the bottles aside in the cellars intentionally.