Krug marathon featuring Krug Grande Cuvée and Krug Rosé

A tasting of Krug Grande Cuvée ond Krug Rosé, i.e. Krug’s non-vintage Champagnes, was pulled together via the Swedish online forum finewines.se. The tasting took place a couple of weeks ago in Gothenburg.

By means of background, Krug produces Champagnes in a very long-lived style throughout their range. This is because they have such a high acidity level that you could easily mistake Grande Cuvée for a prestige blanc de blanc, and contributing is also their use of oak barrels which they claim somewhat “immunize” the wines from further oxidation. Although Krug Grande Cuvée is sold with some age, these wines tend to benefit from additional aging, and really beg for some additional time in the cellar before consumption.

The non-vintage Krug – which you have to call “multivintage” when they are listening – has been called Grande Cuvée since 1978. Before that it was called Private Cuvée. A common issue for most non-vintage Champagnes that have been cellared for a long time, especially if they have been bought at auction or from other second-hand sources, is to know how old they actually are. Krug has helped with us with a coarse identification of the age by changing the label design of Grande Cuvée four times: 1982/83, 1995/96, 2004 and mid-2011. The last change, which only meant smaller changes to the front label, included adding an ID code to the back label. This code makes it possible to retrieve additional information about the bottle, including when it was disgorged and which vintages are included in the cuvée. I’ll come back with a blog post about how to indentify the age of a Krug Grande Cuvée from the label, ID code and cork code, in case there are drinkers or collectors of Krug out there who don’t know the age of their bottles.

This tasting included bottles of all five label designs of Grande Cuvée, as well as a Private Cuvée, i.e., a pre-1978 Krug. In addition we tasted magnums of two of the label designs, and three different rosés. What was striking was how good the older Krugs were, as the oldest Grande Cuvée was among the best wines, and Private Cuvée also showed well. The only slightly questionable wine was the oldest rosé, which was somewhat overoxidized, but still fully drinkable.

The five different label designs on Krug Grande Cuvée that has been used in the period 1978-2012, as 75 cl bottles.  From left (youngest) using the same designations as below: beige with ID code (no 1, 12), beige without ID code (no 3), gold (no 6), white (no 8), and yellow (no 10).

Here both the ID code of the back label and the cork code are visible.

1. Krug Grande Cuvée – “beige with ID code”, disgorged 2011
ID code 311028 (disg. 2011, base vintage 2004), cork code V1131

Nose: pronounced smokey and toasted notes, tosted hazelnuts, a hint of vanilla, yellow apple, a hint of peach. More fruit and less smoke after some time in the glass.

Palate: more than medium bodied, green and yellow apple, a hint of peach, very strong mineral notes, high acidity, slightly spicy, long and fresh aftertaste with mineral.

Unusually toasted and accessible for a young, recently purchased Krug, and more accessible than the other two with this base vintage that I’ve tasted recently. The elegance bodes well for the 2004-based Krugs when they get more years on the cork, but at this stage it is still a young wine. 92+ p

2. Krug Rosé – “purple, with ID code”, disgorged 2010
ID code 410015 (disg. 2010, base vintage guess: 2003), cork code V1051

Appearance: orange-tinged copper.

Nose: wild strawberries, partially dried orange zest and citrus fruit, slightly developed “Burgundy-like” notes with leather and decaying leaves. The oak is not as noticeable here as it is in the white no 1.

Palate: powerful, quite good concentration of fruit, wild strawberries, blood grapefruit, red apple, mineral, rather high acidity. Aftertaste with wild strawberries and freshness.

Pleasant nose, the palate has quite a lot of power but not quite the acidity and vigour as no 1, so we guess that there is base wine from 2003 in this one. Rather young. 92 p

3. Krug Grande Cuvée – “beige, without ID code”, disgorged 2007
Cork code V751

Appearance: slightly more yellow than no 1.

Nose: slightly nutty and bready, some toasted hazelnuts, peach, yellow apple, slightly perfumed, some mineral and a little more tropical notes than no 1 and no 4.

Palate: good concentration of fruit, yellow apple, peach, strong mineral notes, rather high acidity, a hint of grapefruit bitterness.

Pleasant with some developed notes. Still rather young, but probably doesn’t quite have the same potential as no 1. 92 p.

4. Krug Grande Cuvée (magnum) – “beige, without ID code”, disgorged 2005
Cork code V555

Appearance: slightly more yellow than no 1.

Nose: very toasted and smokey, hazelnuts, coffee, yellow apple, noticeable development with mushroom notes, wonderful and elegant.

Palate: good concentration of fruit and full-bodied, slightly oily impression, yellow apple, cirus, some peach, a hint of bitterness, rather high acidity, mineral. Fresh and minerally aftertaste.

Developed notes, but of a different kind than no 3. Accessible and developed in the nose, but could develop more. Best persistence in the glass of all wines. 94 p.
This was voted the best wine of the lineup by the majority.

The three Krug Rosé in the tasting, from left: purple with ID code (no 2), purple without ID code (no 5), silver (no 7)

5. Krug Rosé – “purple, without ID code”, disgorged 2010
Cork code V020, disg. 2010, base vintage guess: 2002

Appearance: pale orange-pink copper.

Nose: wild strawberries, ripe citrus fruit and zest, blood grapefruit, red apple, slightly developed with discrete leather notes.

Palate: rather full-bodied, very fresh style, wild strawberries, citrus fruits, blood grape fruit, some red apple, spicy, high acidity. Aftertaste with mineral, citrus and wild strawberries.

Slightly more citrus notes than no 2, more fresh style with higher acidity. Comes across as younger, but the spicy notes makes it accessible. 93+ p

Was reasonably disgorged half a year before no 2 (two-month period 2 in the year 2010 here, and period 5 in 2010 for wine no 2), and be one of the last that were sold without ID code. We guess from the style of the wine, compared to no 2, that it could have 2002 as base vintage.

6. Krug Grande Cuvée – “gold”, approx 1995-2000
Cork code “15”, the lack of a V code indicates that it should be among the older of this label design, i.e., disgorged mid/end 1990s.

Appearance: golden yellow

Nose: ripe yellow fruit, apples and some red berries, some dried yellow fruit, apple compote, orange zest, some oxidized notes with dried berries, some mushroom notes, slightly aromatic. Rather typical for a mature Krug.

Palate: yellow apples, spicy, fresh style, high acidity, mineral. Fresh and fruity aftertaste.

Fully mature, but not tired. It is however on the “older side” of the gold label Grande Cuvées I’ve had. 92 p

7. Krug Rosé – “silver”, 1980s or 1990s?
No cork code.

Appearance: amber

Nose: clearly oxidized/madeirized notes with nutty sherry-like aromas, yellow fruit, some candied fruit, not too complex, slightly “overage”.

Palate: spicy, winter apples, citrus, rather high acidity, slight bitterness – both grapefruit-style bitterness and old wine-style bitterness.

Somewhat overoxidized and the most “tired” wine of the tasting. But still interesting and fully drinkable. 89 p.

8. Krug Grande Cuvée – “white”, sold 1982-1996

Appearance: amber, slightly cloudy

Nose: nutty, definitely developed with slightly madeirized notes, dried yellow fruit, orange and orange peel, rather aromatic.

Palate: dried fruit, orange, some winter apples, rather high acidity, mineral, spice, developed notes.

Fully mature but still vigorous. 92 p

9. Krug Grande Cuvée (magnum) – “white”, sold 1982-1996

Appearance: golden yellow with some amber hints

Nose: smokey with toasted hazelnuts, yellow fruit and oranges, yellow apples and winter apples, a hint of oxidation notes, development with some mushroom notes, undergrowth, wet moss and some dill.

Palate: citrus, oranges, red apples, some winter apples, noticeable minerality, quite high acidity, somewhat spicy. Long aftertaste with grapefruit, mineral and some spice.

Fully developed, higher acidity than number 8 and fresher style. 93 p
Voted as shared second best.

10. Krug Grande Cuvée – “yellow”, sold 1978-1983

Appearance: golden yellow with some amber hints

Nose: cocoa powder, yellow fruit, red berries, a hint of nuttiness, hints of oxidation notes, some mature notes with mushroom. Very elegant and nuanced, more or less perfect mature Champagne nose.

Palate: yellow and red apples, oranges, other citrus fruits, some winter apples, rather high acidity, spice, some mineral.

A truly delicious nose, the palate is equivalent to number 9. Interesting enough, it comes across as younger than number 8 (which it isn’t), but fully mature. 95 p
Voted as shared second best, I put my best-vote here.

Photo by Orpale

11. Krug Private Cuvée – 1960s or 1970s

Appearance: amber, slighly cloudy.

Nose: rather smokey, somewhat madeirized notes, cocoa powder, some oranges and yellow fruit, some mushroom, nuanced.

Palate: spice, yellow fruit, oranges, other citrus fruits, high acidity, long and fresh aftertaste.

I’d have to say that this is marvelous for its age, but fully mature. 92 p

Apparently this had been purchased in an online auction, as part of a lot of several bottles, where a couple of the other had been much weaker than this, so we were positively surprised. However, everyone’s supposed to be lucky once in a while!

12. Krug Grande Cuvée – “beige with ID code”, disgorged 2011
ID code 211024 (disg. 2011, base vintage 2004)

Nose: slightly smokey and toasted notes, yellow apple, peach, a hint of perfume, some vanilla.

Palate: citrus, yellow apple, high acidity, mineral, some spice.

Definitely young, comes across as younger than number 1, and in line with how I have perceived the typical bottles with 2004 base vintage in current distribution. 91+ p

This closed the circle and brought us back to the release in current distribution, which was something recommended by Remi Krug, who our host Kristian had been in contact with.

There were also some bonus wines, brought by the participants. I’ll just include tasting notes for one of them, since it was a Krug.

Photo by Orpale

Krug 1985

Appearance: bright yellow colour, the initial mousse fades fast.

Nose: rather developed notes, with mushroom, oranges, winter apples, some perfume.

Palate: noticeable acidity, spice, oranges, rather good concentration of fruit, some old wine hints.

Im proved in the glass but honestly didn’t reach the level of the best Grande Cuvées. Developed in the nose, younger but still mature on the palate. 92 p

It wasn’t obvious at first that this was a Krug, I don’t think we would have come up with the guess if it hadn’t been a Krug tasting. “Something with Pinot Noir of the 1996 vintage” was a guess from several participants. After the wine’s identity had been revealed, someone pointed out that the 1985 has been somewhat like this also at earlier tastings, i.e., definitely a good Champagne, but not quite as strong as a mature vintage Krug should be. One thing that struck me was that this wine had more perfume notes than any of the Grand Cuvées.

Some final thoughts

This tasting again showed that Krug produces very long-lived wines. The one that I considered best had been sold some time around 1980 (when I still wasn’t allowed to drink things like that) and the youngest vintages of the blend were probably from early or mid 1970s, probably with some 1960s vintages included! It’s probably not a safe bet to assume that the oldest Krugs always perform best, because the “middle aged” bottles (some 8-17 years) with gold labels can definitely show better than number 6 did here. There’s also no law of nature that dictates that the older “yellow” is always better than “white”. But on the other hand, there’s no reason to be surprised if a Krug Grande Cuvée with 20-30 years on its cork is spectacularly good, provided that it has been stored well, which is something you have to judge (or guess) from its colour and fill level, as well as any damage to the cork or signs of seepage.

Again we saw proof that magnums are a notch better than standard bottles – the two magnums of the tasting took up two of the three top spots when we were asked to rank our top three wines and these votes were put together.

Some people with more experience than me from Krug Rosé thought that the rosés performed less well than on other occasions, but I counted one of the rosés among the best wines of the tasting.

In general, we agreed rather well in our opinions about the wines. We differed slightly in our rankings, as well as our opinions about the rosés, but everyones top three list basically consisted of three wines out of a top group of four wines.

I’m already looking forward to the next Krug tasting, whenever that will be…!

At the far left, I’m doing my best to look serious while Kristian and Carl-Henrik are filling up the glasses with more Krug, while thirsty glances from the right are aimed in the direction of the wines. Photo by Orpale.

Two earlier Krug tastings I’ve written about: vintage Krug in May 2012, mixed Krug in November 2011.

The Swedish version of this post can be found here.

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One Response to Krug marathon featuring Krug Grande Cuvée and Krug Rosé

  1. Pingback: Krug Grande Cuvée vertical tasting | Tomas's wine blog

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