Grand Tasting : NV Krug Grande Cuvée 171ème Édition, NV Krug Rosé 27ème Édition
Gala Dinner : Will be updated soon
Undoubtedly one of the most renowned houses in champagne, Krug is considered by many to be the very greatest of them all. It was founded in 1843 by Johann Joseph Krug, a German emigré who had previously worked for Jacquesson, and who had even been a partner in that firm. He decided, however, to strike out on his own, beginning a legacy that has now stretched down through six generations.
Krug owns 20 hectares of vines, ten in the Côte des Blancs and ten in the southern portion of the Montagne de Reims. These vineyards account for roughly a third of the house’s total needs, with the remainder purchased through long-term contracts. Many of Krug’s sources have been supplying them with grapes for decades: for example, Krug has famously been purchasing meunier from the cooperative in Leuvrigny since 1929, and these grapes form an important part of their blend.
All of Krug’s base wines are fermented in 205-liter oak barrels, but it’s important to note that the house uses oak only for fermentation, not aging. “We use oak casks at Krug because we believe they give more character,” says Olivier Krug (pictured), the director of the house. “The wine acquires more substance in the first fermentation through micro-oxygenation.” Eric Lebel, who was Krug’s chef de cave up until 2020, when he was succeeded by Julie Cavil, points out that flexibility is another factor. “An advantage of fermenting in barrel is that we can vinify each and every parcel separately, no matter how small,” says Lebel. As an example, in the 2007 harvest Krug had no fewer than 28 different wines from Ambonnay, each parcel fermented separately and kept isolated until the creation of the final blends.
Concerning the malolactic fermentation, it’s neither encouraged nor prevented here: in the past it was widely believed that Krug’s wines didn’t go through malo, but on a visit to the house many years ago, Rémi Krug told me that they have since found out that the malo sometimes occurs in the reserve tanks, though never in barrel. They don’t see it as important, anyway. “We don’t care,” said Rémi. “Each wine does what it wants, on its own time and in its own way.”
The brilliance of Krug lies above all in its skillful blending. A successful blend originates with high-quality material, and Krug is meticulous about keeping a collection of base wines that is both extremely diverse and of individual personality. “We are not interested in pinot noir or chardonnay or meunier,” says Olivier Krug. “We are interested in wines of origin. We are interested in the Aÿ from Maurice or the Ambonnay grown by Jean-François—we know these parcels, we know these people, and we keep the identities of these wines separate with our fermentation in barrel.” The house is famous for its vast stocks of reserve wines, and a portion of these will be combined each year with a selection of the 200 to 250 different wines from the most recent harvest. “We have around 350 wines to taste, and about six or seven people taste them,” says Krug. “We taste these wines two or three times, so at the end you might have six or seven thousand ratings. So it’s not very scientific.” In the end, the selection can be based on feeling and experience as much as anything else, which is why the palate memory of older members of the group is so valuable. “There are no rules,” he says. “It’s a completely artistic process.”