Friday, October 22, 2010

Krug Tasting: From solo to full orchestra

Such was the characterization by François Mateo, Krug's Business Development Manager, of the Krug tasting that I attended last evening.  The tasting, and subsequent champagne dinner, was organized and hosted by @wineontheway at Luma on Park in Winter Park.

A total of 20 people attended the tasting while 12 (different) people attended the dinner.  The wines tasted were the 1998 Krug Clos du Mesnil, the 1998 Krug Vintage, the Krug Grande Cuvée, and the Krug Rosé.

In setting up the tasting, Francois drew on a music analogy wherein he likened the Clos du Mesnil, which is 100% Chardonnay, to a solo while the Grande Cuvée, blended from multiple parcels of champagne varietals, was the full orchestra.  The tasting, then, was a journey from the solo on one end to the full orchestra at the other.  And then we would taste the Rosé.

The Clos du Mesnil is made from grapes grown in its namesake vineyard which is located in the heart of the village Mesnil sur Oger.  According to François, this vineyard has been planted to vine since

1698 and its grapes are the "purest expression of Chardonnay you can have in Champagne."  On the nose the wine exhibits bread, a stony minerality and citrus notes.  It is crisp on the palate with great acidity and a long finish.

Vintage wines are declared at Krug only when the year has something unique to offer.   According to François, Krug has a 7-member tasting committee which determines the still wines that will be a part of the final blend.  If, in the course of tasting the still wines of a particular vintage, the committee finds characteristics that set some portion of these wines apart from wines of the past, a vintage is declared.  A vintage speaks to the uniqueness of a particular year and reflects the "emotions of the wine tasting committee."

In our music analogy, the 1998 Krug Vintage is the sonata. The wine is a blend of 20-30 still wines.  With its mix of champagne varietals, it shows more strength, structure and maturity than the Clos.  It has notes of citrus and burnt orange and exhibits great energy and intensity.  François sees this as pairing well with a white fish.

The Krug Grande Cuvée fulfills the vision of the founder in that still wines from over 200 parcels are tasted to determine the final blend.  The still wines are vinified by parcel and go directly from the press to small oak casks where each lot is tracked individually.  Only the most vibrant wines make it into the Grande Cuvée with the remainder either sold off or placed into reserve.  After blending, the wines are aged on the lees for six years before disgorgement.  Each year's Grande Cuvée has 40-50% reserve wine in the blend.  This wine has bigger fruit than the previous two with apple, pear, and tropical fruit noted.  Breadiness is restrained while freshness and maturity are in evidence.  Powerful yet elegant.  This is the wine, according to François, that should be used to introduce someone to the Krug line.

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