1 – champagne tasting at Krug’s headquarters
For years I met Margareth Henriquez, the president of the Maison Krug, in various wine events and we promised to meet at the Krug headquarters to taste the champagnes of her prestigious house together. Finally, the opportunity presents itself. It is planned that I will go to the headquarters one Friday at 11 am and then we will have lunch at the restaurant of the hotel Les Crayères. The idea comes from extending the stay at the hotel with my wife. As she does not drink, she will not go to Krug’s house but will share the planned lunch with the president who is commonly known as Maggie.
On the appointed day, after taking my wife to the hotel, I was greeted at the headquarters of the Krug House by Maggie, Eric Lebel the oenology director and cellar master and by Olivier Krug who will not stay with us because he will be traveling. In the reception room we have a Champagne Krug Grande Cuvée 163rd edition which logically must have been marketed after a disgorgement in 2013. This champagne enjoys a nice acidity. He is round, noble and rich.
We then go into the tasting room, Maggie, Eric and me, to taste seven wines from a high level program. The list of wines is written in chalk on a board with their identification number, which first contains the number of the quarter of the year of disgorgement, then the two digits of the disgorgement year and finally three figures which are certainly representing a lot.
The Champagne Krug Clos d’Ambonnay Blanc of Noirs 2000 has for identification 4 13 063. It was therefore disgorged in the fourth quarter 2013. It has a very discrete nose. In the mouth I feel rather shy, but it will assert itself. It is of great finesse and a beautiful elegance, all in suggestion.
The Champagne Krug Clos du Mesnil Blanc de Blancs 2000 has for identification 2 13 033. I recognize myself much more in this wine of nice acidity and in the finale very surprising of red fruits. More used to the wines of the Côte des Blancs, I am more at ease with this superb champagne.
L’Ambonnay is an aesthetic wine, very subtle. It is difficult but great. Le Mesnil is very noble with charm. It has a nice salty side and a beautiful citrus signature.
The Champagne Krug 2000 has an identifier 1 14 009. The nose is superb. It combines minerality and a toasted side. Its complexity is extreme. It is wide. It is nice for me to taste without Maggie or Eric imposing what I have to find in each wine, which does not prevent discussion. Eric says of the Krug 2000 that it is characterized by balance and precision. Its breadth and width are more assertive than for the previous two 2000. He has everything for him. I love it.
What fascinates me is that the evocation of red fruits of the Clos du Mesnil is that of the raspberry that is sometimes found in very old burgundy of the 10s, of the 20th century of course. And even more curious, the glass of Eric does not have this evocation of red fruits. The fullness of the Krug 2000 is impressive.
Thanks to her phone, Maggie can order on the Krug website the music that accompanies each of the champagnes. The association music and wine is very subjective and personal but one can really feel when a music is in harmony with a champagne and when it is not, which occurs little since musicians worked with the winemakers to arrive at these musical suggestions. We compared our emotions with pleasure.
The Champagne Krug Grande Cuvée 156th edition has an identifier 4 06 001. It is made on the basis of champagnes of 2000 which makes its presence consistent with previous champagnes. It’s immense. It is very beautiful, accomplished with evocations pastry, It is very sharp.
The Champagne Krug Grande Cuvée 157th edition has an identifier 3 07 001. It has much less volume and width. I definitely prefer the 156th. If we are to compare them we could say that the 157th is romantic and the 156th is a warrior.
The Champagne Krug 2002 has a superb nose. It is a comfortable and brilliant champagne. It has a nice fluidity and a great ease. For this champagne I suggested a dance by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. The musical accord was relevant.
The Champagne Krug Grande Cuvée 158th edition has an identifier 1 08 002. It is joyous, glorious. It evokes a bolero. Its fruit is superb, gilded. It is done on a 2002 basis.
My ranking of this brilliant series would be: 1 – Krug 2000, 2 – Clos du Mesnil 2000, 3 – Great Cuvée 158th and 4 – Krug 2002. But each champagne is a marvel.
I am very impressed with the way Krug’s president, who ran South American LVMH companies, appropriated the history and philosophy of Krug House. She bases her vision of the champagnes of her house on the principles erected by Joseph Krug more than a century and a half ago. Eric Lebel is also in this guideline and the champagnes I have tasted are located in the Champagne elite. There are undoubtedly more sensual champagnes but we are here in the aristocracy of Champagne.
Eric abandons us because he is busy with other programs. We go Maggie and I to the Hotel des Crayères for a lunch prepared by the house Krug and Philippe Jamesse, to which I will add some surprises of my cellar.
2 – lunch at the Crayères restaurant
After the tasting at Krug House we will have a lunch, Margareth Henriquez, President of Krug, and I at the restaurant of the Hotel Les Crayères. My wife will attend lunch, but she will not drink. I told Maggie I would bring some surprises but I had not specified anything. When I go to the table I see that a menu is printed and includes the following wines: Krug 2003, Krug Grande Cuvée 159th edition, Krug rosé and Krug Collection 1990.
It happens that this morning, before the visit to the headquarters of Krug, I had given my wines to Philippe Jamesse the sommelier of Les Crayères. Seeing them, he told me that with what was planned, it was going to cause problems. We are therefore faced with a choice between the four wines on the menu and the three that I brought, which are a Krug Grande Cuvée of the 90s, another Krug Grande Cuvée of the 80s and a very rare bottle, a Krug Private Cuvée vintage 1964.
Moreover, we brought from the tasting made at the headquarters, the bottle of Clos du Mesnil 2000 and that of the Krug 2000. Four and three make seven and two make nine. Nine wines for two is excluded. The choice is difficult. I suggest that we drink: Clos du Mesnil 2000, Krug 2000, Krug Collection 1990, the Krug Grande Cuvée of the 80s and the Krug Private Cuvée vintage 1964.
As we completely change the champagnes of a meal made for other wines, I suggest that the champagnes will all be served together, each of us choosing to drink those he wants and compare them as he pleases. The program is launched, Maggie having a little trouble imagining that we drink all the wines at the same time.
There is also the problem of glasses. Philippe Jamesse, sommelier but also creator of glasses has put on table his biggest glasses. Maggie and I would be more favorable to smaller glasses. At our convenience we can taste the champagnes in the two glasses. The Clos du Mesnil 2000 will be much better in the large glass, which reinforces the suggestion of Philippe Jamesse but for the Private Cuvée 1964 it is the small glass that suits the best.
The menu prepared for the initial list of wines is: tartare locust lobster, iodized caviar plum juices / black truffle squash risotto, shells gently grilled / salmon cod pickled in half-salt butter, mosaic Beets and truffles / pig’s back cooked gently on the grill, organic vegetables cooked in salt crust under the embers / crispy chestnuts, fresh grapefruit, brown emulsion and maple syrup.
It is an impressive menu, intended to show the gastronomic flexibility of champagne wines.
The Champagne Krug Clos du Mesnil Blanc de Blancs 2000 is much more lively and dynamic when it is drunk with dishes than when it was tasted in the tasting room. It is more fruity in the large glass than in the small one. It has a sovereign charm, magic on the langoustine tartare. Its aerial complexities give it a certain romanticism.
The Champagne Krug 2000 confirms the richness he delivered in the tasting room a short time ago. He is powerful, assertive, righteous and noble. It is solid as a rock.
The three other champagnes will bring us into the fascinating world of champagnes at maturity. The Champagne Krug Collection 1990 was disgorged two years ago. It is wonderful because it has a crazy youth combined with material of high maturity. His balance is splendid. It is fluid, its fruit is asserted. It twirls in the mouth like fireworks.
Philippe Jamesse opens my wines. He shows me the corks of rare beauty. The smooth, clean and healthy cylinders are a pleasure to see. The Champagne Krug Grande Cuvée of the early 80’s is miraculous. It has a charm and a chew that pianote exotic fruits that are confusing. Its fullness on the palate is spectacular. It was with this champagne that I wanted to convince Maggie, the president of Krug, of the necessity of letting the « Grande Cuvée » grow older than any standard for having sublime wines. The evidence is there, in our glasses. This Champagne is at the top of what Champagne can give.
When Philippe pours into my glass the first drops of the Champagne Krug Private Cuvée vintage 1964, I know that it is won. The color of the champagne is of a rare purity, magically gilded. In the mouth this wine fills me with ease and pride. Not that I have any responsibility in making this champagne, but I am glad that it allows me to show to the one who decides the future of Krug how well age makes successful champagnes. This joyful plenitude with its beautiful golden fruit is a consecration.
I have Philip taste the two champagnes I brought. For me, the 1964, because of its rarity and perfection, won the vote, with a generous and opulent fruitiness and extreme complexity. But like Philippe I am obliged to note that it is the Krug Grande Cuvée of the 80s which is the most glorious, the most sensual, the most joyfull champagne.
It is interesting to make some considerations about this meeting and this experience. I wanted to meet Margareth Henriquez to show her by example that the Krug house should make his Grande Cuvée grow old much longer to offer them to wine lovers in their fullness. The wines that I brought here are the brilliant demonstration. But I could see that the movement is moving. From the moment that Krug writes on the labels the order number of the edition of the Grande Cuvée, we will differentiate all the Grandes Cuvées and obviously the wine market will seize it. Prices will inevitably explode, as the 158th edition will be worth more than the 163rd, for example, but the amateur will be able to favor the editions that he wants to drink. The market will bubble with this revolution. Maggie will pursue a policy of stock retention which, paradoxically, was virtually non-existent. Beautiful days are expected for this champagne, except perhaps for our wallets. But taste will triumph.
There is another teaching in the opposite direction for me. I came to defend the thesis of the constitution of stocks of champagnes with disgorgement of origin, so that we keep the champagnes in the version of their first delivery to the market. I am in fact more favorable to the initial disgorgements than to the recent disgorgements. During this meal, the Champagne Krug Collection 1990, which was disgorged two years ago, showed a vivacity and vigor that justifies that Krug should also make these champagnes « Collection » which rejuvenate Champagnes preserved on lees. It is probably necessary in the long-term storage policy to encourage the storage of the two versions, in similar proportions.
During this meal we discussed a thousand things. My ranking would be: 1 – Grande Cuvée year #80, 2 – Private Cuvée 1964, 3 – Collection 1990, 4 – Clos du Mesnil 2000, 5 – Krug 2000. But I would gladly ex-aequo the first and the second because the 1964 is very dear to my heart, and ex aequo the fourth and fifth because Krug 2000 is a wonderful achievement.
The food is brilliant, the service is attentive and competent. Philippe Jamesse makes a perfect wine service. This meal with immense wines will be a very great memory.
3 – dinner at the Crayères
It was not necessary to pray for a long time so that I would take a nap after these feasts. At twenty o’clock precisely we went down my wife and I to dine in the beautiful dining room of the Hotel Les Crayères. The choice of the wines will be quite easy since it remains of almost all the champagnes of the lunch.
The menu says « royal lobster in tartare and black truffle, fritot and creamy truffle with walnut water », but my wife and I prefer as at lunch to see this dish treated with caviar. We then take the pigeon of Onjon Lacquered Coteaux Champenois, the second filet under a roast of filling au gratin.
The four wines that remain, since the Clos du Mesnil 2000 was finished at lunch, have grown in size and are still as dashing, but it is me who is less dashing so it seems to me more judicious than the team of Crayères takes advantage of what remains of these miraculous champagnes.
Of the two meals, the dish that emerges and undoubtedly deserves the status of three stars, is the pigeon, gourmand, firm, original and tasty. Philippe Mille has created a pigeon that deserves to be in the annals of gastronomy.
After a night filled with beautiful dreams and a breakfast of good food I still had beautiful bubbles of joy that sang in my head the memory of this communion with the champagnes of a great maison de champagne.
(pictures are in the article just below)