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, including info on some special releases.
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:
- Tentatively from late 2016-: beige label with an edition number on the front label and ID code on the back label. From the regular release of Krug Grande Cuvée with base vintage 2008 the labels will carry an edition number, but will otherwise look like the bottles from 2011-2016. The release with 2008 as the base vintage is the 164ème edition. The number 1 (”1er edition”) thus corresponds to the year 1845. Special releases with older base vintages will also carry an edition number from 2016. Early 2016, the 158ème edition with 2002 base and 163ème edition with 2007 base, then the regular Krug Grande Cuvée, were shown edition-numbered together with 2002 Krug Vintage.
- Mid-2011-2016: 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 letter code (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 letter code on their cork, and the older ones 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.
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.
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:
- Letter code, a code starting with a letter, usually 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 letter 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 letter code on the pattern V YPN (with a small space between the letter and the first digit), for example V751 which 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. The letter is often av V, but I’ve seen an A several times and on occasion an M, but I haven’t figured out any difference between the various letters.
- 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 itself is not in question, although different disgorgement years often do exist.
The code on the cork is visible without removing the muselet and the wires, so in principle it would be possible to read it by removing a part of the foil, although this would make the bottle look ugly and damaged.
Namned special releases
Krug has on some occasions during the “beige label” period released (or at least presented at tastings) Krug Grande Cuvée bottles with special names. These bottles have been re-releases of bottles that have been stored an additional time by Krug and therefore been named/labelled in order to be told apart from the current release. The name has been indicated either on the back label or a small neck label. From 2016, such releases will probably be given its edition number (see above) rather than a special name. The 2002 base that had earlier been called Finesse was presented as the 158ème edition when the 2002 Krug Vintage was presented. Known releases are the following, with their corresponding edition numbers indicated:
- Fraîcheur, 1996 base, oldest reserve wine 1983. Edition number: 152ème.
- Richesse, 2000 base, oldest reserve wine 1988. Edition number: 156ème.
- Savoir-Faire, 2001 base, oldest reserve wine 1988 and an unusually high proportion of reserve wines. Edition number: 157ème.
- Finesse, 2002 base, composition 44% Pinot Noir, 36% Chardonnay, and 20% Pinot Meunier, oldest reserve wine 1988. Also known as 158ème edition (those bottles had been disgorged spring 2008).
- Mémoires, 2003 base, oldest reserve wine 1990. Edition number: 159ème.
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 letter 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.
- An article on the release of the 2002 Krug and the edition information on the labels.
- Information on specific batches at Krug’s website, and for auctions directly from Krug’s cellars (including one by Sothebys in December 2012)..
- 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 letter code was introduced, i.e., which letter codes (V codes or other letters) 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. A more substantial update 2016-03 with info on edition numbers and releases with special names.
The Swedish version of this post can be found here.