One of my many pet hobby horses is how much more mature I generally find the champagnes in the US compared to supposedly the same cuvée in the UK. I came across the most dramatic example last weekend.
A couple of weeks ago in London a friend with a great cellar served a bottle of Krug Rosé before dinner. It was amazing. So much the polar opposite of the rather austere state of the Krug Grande Cuvée current in Britain at the moment (see below), being very voluptuous and soft and fruity – almost strawberry like but with the lightest of touches. Really a sort of beguiling feather tickling the palate. It even looked slightly like the palest strawberry juice imaginable, still with the merest hint of blue in it.
Last weekend another generous host here in New York, another very knowledgeable wine lover, chose to serve us Krug Rosé as an aperitif before a delicious dinner cooked by the new chef at Gramercy Tavern. Knowing how he sources his wines, I suspect this was current stock rather than a long-treasured bottle. The wine was unrecognisable: much more orange than pink although still very very pale and, as he sniffed the first glass, he said “ah yes, slightly maderised the way the Brits like it”. This wine was bone dry, quite chewy, relatively severe though obviously very ‘serious’ and deep-flavoured.
Is it perhaps that the champagne distribution chain in New York has many more links than its British counterpart? So the wine is much older by the time it reaches the consumer? I would be very surprised if our London friend had plucked his bottle off a shelf that morning – especially since his cellar is stuffed with top quality champagne.
Or is it the famous semi torna viagem effect (see Madeira) on shipping champagne across the Atlantic? Would shipping it west to east freshen it up again? OK, silly idea, but an observable effect I promise.
FYI here’s a recent tasting note on Krug Grande Cuvée tasted blind, in London:
Krug, Grande Cuvée Champagne 17 Drink 2008-14
Copper. Some greenness on the nose – though lots of complexity too. Oddly enough there is almost a hint of something toasty too. This is almost like a liqueur – a tincture/essence of champagne rather than the frothy, exuberant drink itself. You need to like oak to like this wine. Not really zesty enough? Certainly an ‘intellectual’ wine… Obviously a very different wine from the rest, but is it more pleasurable to drink…?