How to identify the age of a Krug Grande Cuvée

Krug Grande Cuvée, the non-vintage/multivintage version of Krug and the most commonly encountered Champagne of the Krug range, is a wine that can be cellared for quite a long time. The preference of many Krug enthusiasts is to always drink it with some cellar age. From mid-2011 an ID code has been included on the back label by means of which information about disgorgement and vintages in the blend can be retrieved from the Krug website. On bottles from 2011 and earlier some information about their age can be concluded from the label design and in some cases from a code printed on the cork. This is a summary on how to interpret these clues, that I’ve put together from different information sources.

Krug Grande Cuvée has been sold since 1978. Before that the non-vintage Krug was called Private Cuvée. In connection with this name change Krug switched from regular-shaped Champagne bottles to bottles of the shape they still use, with a larger diameter at the bottom and a narrower neck.

Label designs from left to right: beige (or matt-yellow) with ID code, beige without ID code, gold, white, yellow.

Information on the label

The colour of the label and other features of the label design identifies the approximate age of the bottle. The years below indicate which years the bottles were sold by Krug:

  • Mid-2011-: beige (I’ve also seen it called matt-yellow) label with ID code. The front label is somewhat simplified compared to those without ID code. The patterns on the sides of the label have been dropped, and “KRUG” is written in a straight line on the lower shield of the neck foil. The back label includes an ID code. The first bottles of this label design were from the base vintage 2003.
  • 2004-2011: beige label without ID code. On the sides of the front label there is a flower-like pattern, and “KRUG” is written in a curved way on the lower shield of the neck foil. All bottles have a V code on their cork (see below).
  • 1995/96-2004: gold label with a lot of red in the design. “KRUG” is written with golden letters on a red background. The neck foil is also gold-coloured and there’s a large “K” high up on it. The younger bottles of this label design have a V code on their cork, and the older have a two-digit code.
  • 1982/83-1995/96: “white” (or pale yellow) label. To tell the difference between yellow and white labels only based on the colour isn’t too easy, since older labels can be somewhat faded. However, this label design also has “GRANDE CUVÉE” written in small-size uppercase letters, has a narrow red line around the edge (rather than a wide border), and a long neck foil that reaches half-way down the narrowing part of the bottle and finishes with a large shield.
  • 1978-1982/83: yellow label. This label design can also be identified by the wide red border on the label, by “Grande Cuvée” written in rather large-sized lowercase letters (with uppercase G & C) and a shorter neck foil, that basically only covers the straight part of the neck. The decision to introduce Grande Cuvée and the new bottle design was taken in 1972, so the base vintage in the oldest bottles of this label design is 1971 or 1972.

From left to right: purple with ID code, purple without ID code, older bottle. The older bottle probably matches Grande Cuvée “white”. There is also a version (not in the picture) that matches Grand Cuvée “gold”: it has the “K” on the neck foil that can also be found on Grande Cuvée “gold”, and a neck foil in a lighter colour.

Krug Rosé has been sold since 1983, and exists in four different versions, of which three are shown in the picture. Krug Rosé also carries an ID code since mid-2011, and has had its label changed in the same way as Grande Cuvée. The Krug Rosé releases that match Grande Cuvée ”white” and Grande Cuvée ”gold” differ less than the Grande Cuvée labels. One trick is to look for the large ”K” on the neck foil, since that matches the Grand Cuvée ”gold”, while ”white” doesn’t have a K.

ID code

The ID code, that was introduced in mid-2011, is a six digit code that has the pattern PYYNNN, where YY = year of disgorgement, P = period during the year the disgorgement took place, NNN = serial number of the batch. YY are the last two digits of the year, i.e. 10 for 2010, 11 for 2011 and so on. P indicates which two-month period during the year that the disgorgement took place, which means 1 = January/Febrary, 2 = March/April, 3 = May/June, 4 = July/August, 5 = September/October, 6 = November/December.

Here both the ID code of the back label and the cork code (in this case a four-digit V code) are visible.

Codes on the cork

Printed on the rim of the cork one of the following can be found, sorted by increasing age of the bottles:

  • V code, a code starting with a V and followed by three or four digits, indicating the year of disgorgement (Y), period during the year (P), and a serial number (N). There can also be some letters after the digits. P is the same as in the ID code, i.e., 1 = January/Febrary, 2 = March/April, 3 = May/June, 4 = July/August, 5 = September/October, 6 = November/December.
    • Four-digit V code on the pattern VYYPN, for example V1131 which means disgorged May/June 2011. This type of code is used on bottles with ID code on the back label, i.e., bottles sold from mid-2011, and the oldest disgorgement year with this type of code is 2010. The same YY+P information is used in the ID code, but appears in reverse order. 211 and 311 in the ID code corresponds to 112 and 113 on the cork.
    • Three-digit V code on the pattern V YPN (with a small space between V and the first digit), for example V751 that means disgorged September/October 2007. Is used on bottles with beige labels and younger bottles with gold labels. I haven’t been able to pinpoint exactly when this code was introduced, perhaps in the late 1990s? The youngest bottles with a three-digit code were disgorged in 2010.
  • A code or M code, a code with A or M and three digits, has been encountered on some occasions. They seem to follow the same pattern as the V code. Possibly, some other letters could also be found. In more recent times, the letter has always been a V, so I’ve chosen to call it a V code.
  • Two-digit code. The digits don’t seem to carry any information in the same way as the younger codes. However, bottles with this code are older than bottles with V code or M code, but younger than those without any code.
  • No code at all. Corks with nothing printed on the rim indicates an older wine than those with a two-digit code.

These codes are also used on vintage Krug, but in those cases, the age of the wine is not unknown in the same way as for Grande Cuvée.

The code on the cork is visible without removing the muselet and the wires, so in principle it whould be possible to read it by removing a part of the foil, although this would make the bottle look ugly and damaged.

My main sources of information:

  • A summary on the label designs written by Remi Krug in January 2005 after their then recent change of labels, can be found on the forum finewines.se. (The forum posts are in Swedish, but Krug’s quoted text is in English.)
  • Matching of Remi Krug’s descriptions and bottles in his own cellar done by CH at finewines.se.
  • Description of the V code by Nicolas Audebert, one of Krug’s winemakers, in May 2005 quoted here.
  • Description of the ID code and current vintages in the cuvée in connection with the Krug Masterclass at Decanter Fine Wine Experience in November 2011.
  • Information on specific batches at Krug’s website.
  • Inspection of cork codes in connection with tastings.
  • Pictures of older bottles that have been available for sale.

I would be very interested in hearing comments on this blog post in these two cases:

  • Any information having bearing on when the V code was introduced, i.e., which V codes that are the oldest, and when the two-digit codes were introduced.
  • If you encounter any bottle which seem to fall outside this pattern.

Updated 2013-10 with some more information on Krug Rosé.

The Swedish version of this post can be found here.

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13 Responses to How to identify the age of a Krug Grande Cuvée

  1. dalcoholic says:

    Great article!! I have a bottle in my cellar from the 2004-2011 era. I don’t want to open the foil, as you mention. There is a code etched into the bottle itself just below the back label. There is a faint “LLLIHA” followed by a slightly less faint “03175″. Do you have any thoughts on the age of this one? Thanks!!

    • vintomas says:

      I don’t really have a clue if the numbers in these bottle markings contain any information, I’ve never seen them referred to. I just checked a Krug vintage 1996 where I’ve kept the cork, and the bottle says LLLIW 1240 while the cork says V 651, so there doesn’t seem to be any obvious connection between the cork code and the bottle markings. Many Champagne houses use them, though, but probably to identify lots if they should turn out to have quality problems, and for anti-fraud purposes. You could try to email Krug and see if they are able to tell you anything about your bottle.

  2. Fantastic article, and exactly what I was curious about! I was trying to do research to see for myself when each of the Grande Cuvee labels were used, and you spelled it all out, and more. One question – do you know if the rose labels were introduced for the same periods of time? Meaning, older was 1983-2004 (which spans 2 GC labs,) purple w/o code 2004-2011 and purple w/code 2011+? It makes sense the later two roses lined up with the later two GCs as the designs are similar, but I thought I’d see if you knew.

    • vintomas says:

      It seems reasonable to assume that the design for the rosé has been changed at the same time as the Grande Cuvée, but I have not been able to tell for sure if there is one label covering 1983-1995/96 and another 1995/96-2004. The rosé is much more rare, so I’ve seen much fewer older bottles of rosé. The design is sufficiently different from GC so it’s not obvious to which period the rosé in the photo (taken from a GC tasting in the autumn of 2012).

      • vintomas says:

        Update: I recently noticed a picture of a Krug Rosé more closely resembling the GC “gold” (95/96-04) design, including a Krug “K” on the neck foil. So the older Krug Rosé in the picture above must be a 83-95 design. So, yes, there are different Krug Rosé designs for all the different Grande Cuvée designs.

  3. (Oops, I meant purple w/o code 2004-2011)

  4. Pingback: House of Krug and the Quest for Perfection | RJonWine.com

  5. Garrett DeVries says:

    This is great. Thanks for posting this information.

  6. Robert Watt says:

    Thank you for this information. I have been a long time fan of Krug and it is great to have this information on the Krug MV. I like to age the MV Champagne 5-10 years and have been writing the month/year of purchase on the back label to keep track of age. We just had our 17th annual blind Champagne tasting in November and the 2000 Krug came out on top. Both the Krug vintage and MV Champagnes have done very well over the years. If you want to see the results of our blind Champagne tastings, take a look at our blog http://www.exactwines.com Thanks again.

  7. kay gray says:

    HI I HAVE A BOTTLE OF KRUG PRIVATE CURVEE CHAMP NUMBER LEFT SIDE OF LABLE IS NM 3042 212 RIGHT SIDE HDR 300108 KRUG AND CO OR REIMS CREAM SQUARE CORNERED MATT LABLE WITH BLACK PRINT. GOLD FOIL NECK WITH BURGENDY COLLER WITH GOLD LETTERS IVE HAD IT OVER 25 YEARS CAN YOU TELL ME HOW OLD THIS IS THANKS KAY X

    • vintomas says:

      Hello kay gray! Unfortunately, the numbers you quote doesn’t tell the age. The “NM” numbers are just Krug’s registry code as producer, and the HDR might perhaps be some postal code. Krug Private Cuvée was sold until 1978, so this bottle is from 1978 or earlier, i.e., at least 36 years old. It is possible that the label design and the foil can give some additional clues as to the age of a bottle of Private Cuvée, but unfortunately I don’t have any information regarding this.

  8. Martin Gormsen says:

    Thank you for your very helpfull blog. It’s things like this there will save humanity.

    Among others old NV’s I have two different bottles with the White label. The first one is identical with the one on the picture above and have NM number 225-001. The second bottle is a little different: “Reims” is written with a little difference in the typografis, it’s “750 ml” instead og “75 cl”, it’s on the krug label stated “importato da Marchesi Antinori” and the NM number is 3.042.212. It’s obvious an Italian import. It leaves me with two questions: There seems to be a change in the NM number over time. Can this be used to determine the age more precise? And have the Italian Antinori import taken place in the full period for the White label. In others words; can this be used to determine the age more precise? Kind regards Martin

    • vintomas says:

      Possibly it could be used to “nail down” the age of the bottle more precisely, but unfortunately I have no information about import labels. They don’t seem to have been used for some time, though, because I’ve never seen any on the more recent versions. The current producer code is NM 549-001, by the way, at least on the bottle I had in my fridge. All NM, RM or other codes I’ve noticed (not just on Krug bottles) have the structure of today, so “3.042.212″ must be an older version. – I’ll have to check other older Champagne bottles I come across! So it seems reasonable to assume that this is an older rather than a younger bottle in the “white range”, probably from the 1980s rather than the early 1990s.

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