Vertical tasting of Krug Vintage and of Clos du Mesnilmardi, 23 janvier 2007

In 2007, Rémi Krug is doing one of the last great tastings of his champagnes, to mark 42 years spent serving the wine that bears his name. He is proud that certain champagnes carry his mark and that many future vintages will be influenced by the work he has done, as part of a long-term vision. This is the first time that he has led a tasting where « Vintage » Krug are compared to Krug Clos du Mesnil, for eight times they have been produced together in the same year. Vintage is a blended wine, while Clos du Mesnil is the gem of a walled plot, the size of the Romanée Conti plot, or even a little smaller. Rémi is passionate, and describes his wines with love, as if he is discovering them for the first time. He says his strategy is not to make Clos du Mesnil a better wine than Krug Vintage, but on the contrary to make each one the best that can be created, in its definition.

As usual in these vertical tastings, I took notes in a little notebook, which I don’t do at dinner parties. They are reproduced in their « juice », so that you experience these emotions as I experienced them. The repetitions are left, because it is the edge of the pen.

The 1995 Krug Vintage is already very golden. The nose is very warm, of caramel. In the mouth, it is very smoky, bacon. Good length, good maturity already. You can smell iodine and lime. The 1995 Krug Clos du Mesnil is a little rosier. The nose is winey and salty. In the mouth it is not completely assembled. I smell the pink fruits, the flowers, the salt and the citrus fruits. It is rougher but it promises more. It will explode in a few years. The finish is very citrus, with a little honey, which appears more when you have a little snacking. The Krug Vintage is more solid, square. The Krug Clos du Mesnil is more romantic.

The Krug Vintage 1990 is very golden, with an intense nose. What power! We have a very square, very solid structure. The 1990 Krug Clos du Mesnil is paler. The nose is a bit stuck. In the mouth, I take a step back. It’s not 100% what it should be. Remi comes to smell my glass and sees no anomaly. But looking back at this vintage after tasting other years, the imperfection is clear, even if the nose does not reveal it.

The Krug Vintage 1989 has a beautiful color. Its nose is the exact definition of a champagne perfume. On the palate, it is already quieter. Krug Clos du Mesnil 1989 has a beautiful intense golden color, even dark. The nose is discreet. The palate is of candied fruit. Full of sun, that’s champagne! My neighbor reports a mint finish that I recognize when he tells me. When warming in the glass, we recognize honey and Turkish delight, while having this freshness which is a signature of Krug.

The Krug Vintage 1988 has a nose of enormous intensity. What strikes me about this legendary champagne that I have drunk dozens of times is its iodine and saline side. Krug Clos du Mesnil 1988 has a mineral nose of flint, incredible for a champagne at this level of intensity. He is completely exceptional. He is wild. And he joins the wild Burgundian as I adore him. It’s huge. I recognize currant and gooseberry in this crazy champagne. The 1989 Krug Clos du Mesnil is elegant and well-bred. Krug Clos du Mesnil 1988 is a singing madman of infinite charm.

The Krug Vintage 1985 is less colorful. On the palate, it is gingerbread and French toast. The bubble is strong, there is toasted, with this permanent freshness. The 1985 Krug Clos du Mesnil starts slowly. It is of rare subtlety. It slips so smoothly in the mouth that the image that comes to me is that of a canoe driven on rapids rubbing heavy round stones. It’s quite incredible, and incredibly fresh. With the Krug Clos du Mesnil 1988 we had reached new heights, but with this dazzling 1985, it is this freshness that paralyzes me and leaves me speechless. The 1985 Krug Vintage is manly, full. The 1985 Krug Clos du Mesnil is very oyster, subtle.

The Krug Vintage 1982 is a beautiful golden color. Very archetypal, it is in my opinion the definition of Krug. But it’s almost too scholarly. Krug Clos du Mesnil 1982 is very evolved. I love that evolutionary side that tingles on the tongue. The purely perfect 1982 Krug Vintage is almost too doctrinal. Krug Clos du Mesnil 1982 is honey, caramel that sometimes offers oyster if we go from one toast to another from the plate offered to us to appease a little hunger.

The Krug Vintage 1981 is the first tonight to have a mineral nose. How beautiful. It is smoked. The 1981 Krug Clos du Mesnil has a magical, oriental nose. The bubble is powerful. This champagne is also evolved, but here a little too much. I feel like he’s already passed on another side of his life. The Krug Vintage 1981 is fabulous and I like its fat.

The Krug Vintage 1979 has a phenomenal nose and a phenomenal palate. It’s grandiose. The nose evokes petroleum, the palate is smoky, of burnt caramel. He has a crazy personality. It’s crazy. It’s completely huge. The 1979 Krug Clos du Mesnil has a giant nose. On the palate, it is raspberry, red fruits. It is absolute bliss. How can you make something so big? There is candied fruit, strawberries, but also spice, pepper. It’s big and the bubble is strong. This is the biggest Krug Clos du Mesnil 1979 that I have drunk. It’s out of the ordinary. The Krug Vintage 1979 is huge, manly, with a strong personality. Tonight’s Krug Vintage were academic and perfect. The latter is scoundrel, exciting, grandiose. The 1979 Krug Clos du Mesnil is magical. This red fruit is crazy and turns lilac.

Rémi concludes the tasting with a magnum of Krug Grande Cuvée which is around six years old and tells us: « Krug is the Grande Cuvée. That’s what I’m proud of « . Rémi has these simple words, as I like them: « if you want to have fun making a great cuvée yourself, take whatever is left in your glasses of the 16 wines tasted, assemble them. This is the Grande Cuvée « .

Rémi Krug speaks with emotion of his « children ». It seems impossible to me to rank those that I liked above the others. What is striking is the immense complexity of the Krug Clos du Mesnil, which changes from year to year, but also from one sip to another of the same glass. I find it a bit of a shame to have presented the Krug Vintage alongside the Krug Clos du Mesnil, because these high quality wines, pure companions in gastronomy, deserve to be tasted for themselves. Having them coexist with the Krug Clos du Mesnil reduces them a bit, while they are immense. But this somewhat crazy exercise, which is a first ever attempted, had a certain merit. We will understand by the rave terms I used that I liked. Christophe Navarre, president of Moët Hennessy, who came to taste as a friend with his wife, thanked Rémi for his essential contribution to the reputation of this Champagne icon. Listening to an enthusiast of this caliber is a treat, almost as great as the charm of these endless wines.