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.
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 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. The younger bottles of this label design have a V code on their cork, and the older have a two-digit code.
- 1982/93-1995/96: “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 reach 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.
Krug Rosé has been sold since 1983. Krug Rosé also carries an ID code since mid-2011, and has had its label changed in the same way as Grande Cuvée.
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.
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.
- M code, a code with M and three digits, has been encountered on a few occasions. Possibly it follows the same pattern as the V code. It could perhaps be a misprint or a misreading of 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.
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.
The Swedish version of this post can be found here.