30 November 2017 As it is announced that Maggie Henriquez is to take over from Jean-Guillaume Prats as head of LVMH's still wine division, we thought we would republish the account below of some time spent last year with this dynamic force in wine in her role as head of Krug (which she is to retain – she told me this morning that Krug is 'engraved on my heart' and I believe her). The division for which she will be responsible was recently expanded by a 60% stake in cult winery Colgin, something to add to Alder's 2013 account of Foreign investment in Napa. Prats is to take over Christophe Salin's management role in the Lafite empire, thereby taking him back to his Bordeaux base, where for long he was associated with the property across the road from Lafite, Ch Cos d'Estournel (see this 2009 video). He will presumably be glad to be spending slightly less time in the air. From next year Prats will be working with Saskia de Rothschild, who has been studying oenology and is to take over from her father Baron Eric. All change!
25 March 2016 As I will be writing tomorrow in Krug's unusual ethos, there is something very special about the team responsible for Krug champagne. The public face of the house, now financed by LVMH but still very much represented by a Krug, is boyish Olivier, the late Henri Krug's son. He is a genuine wine enthusiast and rather reminds me of the late Gérard Jaboulet, who took his curiosity and good humour around the world representing Paul Jaboulet Aîné. Olivier cut his teeth working in Japan and still loves that country where Krug lovers concentrate on Grande Cuvée rather than vintage Krug. 'They haven't even moved on to our 2003!' he told me.
The 10 tasting notes below are the result of a short visit to Krug in January over a dinner and working session to present Krug 2002 in the morning. As close followers of the fortunes of Champagne know, much of the dynamism in the region today comes from the ranks of ambitious young growers represented at the series of April tastings about which Tim Hall of Scala Wine reported in Champagne's young ones strut their stuff last year (and will again this year). There is inevitably some tension between these small-scale producers and the much bigger and usually much older houses. Over our dinner, I was particularly struck by how thrilled Olivier Krug professed himself to be, having been the only representative of a maison to have been included with a group of favoured growers at La Fête de Champagne in New York.
The theme of the (many) wines for our dinner was the 2000 vintage – both wines carrying that vintage date and the Grande Cuvée based on it. Note the importance of glass shape in the tasting notes below! (Olivier is waging war on tall champagne flûtes, frequently employing the hashtage ##nofluteforagreatchampagne on Twitter.) As always, it was instructive to compare the vintage-dated wine and the non-vintage blend. Krug quite rightly insist that one is not better than the other – they are simply the two complementary halves of what Krug produces. Vintage-dated champagne comprises only about 10% of their production or, as Olivier puts it, 'about the same as DRC in terms of volume!' In future they are going to try to have two vintages available concurrently, on the basis that 'it's much more interesting for both consumers and sommeliers'. (Wouldn't it be nice to be able to afford the comparative tasting?) Look out for my report of a recent blind tasting of every Krug vintage from 1988 - JR November 2017
Krug pride themselves on being particularly closely attuned to their consumers, thanks nowadays to Olivier's obsession with social media – although it is not that easy to operate as a communicative vintner in the mother of all wine-producing countries thanks to the Loi Evin and its many offshoots controlling the promulgation of the demon drink.
Apart from Olivier and the winemaking team, the other driving force behind Krug is CEO Maggie Henriquez, who arrived in 2009 from LVMH's Terrazas de los Andes in Argentina. She has instituted many innovations, including longer ageing, both before and after disgorgement, and some novel IT applications. So long is Grande Cuvée aged before release that she is yet to taste a Grande Cuvée based on wine made during her tenure.
She was, however, able to taste extensively with Henri Krug, who was for so many years responsible for making all Krug champagne. A favourite exercise is to show Krug's Clos du Mesnil 1999, a wine that has so far not been released because the tasting committee cannot sanction it as being up to Krug standards. Apparently they keep on tasting it as it evolves, and continually experiment with the dosage, but it remains taking up cellar space for now. We tasted it in the Krug tasting room and, in the Krug style, it is certainly denser than most champagnes, but lacks real lift on the nose and is a bit astringent on the finish. Julie Cavil, heiress-apparent to chef de caves Eric Lebel, criticises it for being too light, too simple and too short. For now.
While admiring such expensive fastidiousness, there is one novelty I am not so sure of, but perhaps that is my fault: the house's appointment of a piece of music to accompany each wine. An Italian harpist supposedly represents Krug 2003 while American jazz musician Gregory Porter came to Reims and has dedicated an a capella piece to Krug 2002.
In the office the morning after the dinner, Eric Lebel looked up the conditions of the 2000 vintage and reported that the excellent start had been disturbed in July by storms on the Montagne de Reims, and on 16 August focused on Le Mesnil-sur-Oger on the Côte des Blancs. There was a lot of hail, but the fruit that was harvested was particularly generous with a good quantity of healthy grapes. 'The 2000 is more natural and more in the Krug style than the 2003', he reported. See Krug 2002 arrives at last for more detail on the latest Krug vintage.
The 10 wines below are listed in the order they were served, the first six, mainly based on the 2000 harvest, over the dinner at L'Assiette Champenoise described already on this site by Nick, the rest tasted at Krug's offices in Reims when the new Krug 2002 was unveiled, as listed on the blackboard in the tasting room (top right).
ID 413063. Bottle number 1008 disgorged in 2013. When this was made, it was still an experiment. The 1995 was the first vintage but it had still not been released. This 2000 was released in early 2015.
Deep gold. Very deep-flavoured - chestnuts? - on the nose. Extremely persistent. Massive dimension; the bubbles almost seemed to struggle to escape. Still remarkably fresh with masses of aromatic development. Big, bold and bright.
Originally released in 2012 but this bottling was not from the first release.
Much tighter, fresher and leaner than the Clos d'Ambonnay 2000 once served in a decent champagne glass. Very complex and serious on the nose. Brightly fruited and finely etched. Thrilling tension. This wine was originally served in wide burgundy bowls and these made the wine taste much broader and more developed than the Clos d'Ambonnay 2000.
ID 114009. 42% Pinot Noir, 43% Chardonnay, 15% Pinot Meunier.
Tense, complex nose. Exotic smoked notes of lapsang souchong tea. Really urgent and energetic with a rich finish.
ID 406001. The blend of 45% Pinot Noir, 35% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Meunier was based on 2000 but includes 118 wines from 10 different vintages, the oldest being 1990, the youngest 2000. Disgorged 2006.
Fresh, floral tension. Focused thought reticent on the nose. Dense with lots to chew on. A little sweetness and lots of depth.
ID 313048. The blend of 59% Pinot Noir, 33% Chardonnay, 8% Pinot Meunier contains vintages from 2000 to 2006.
Fresh, rosy nose and really unusually substantial on the mid palate even if a tiny bit light on the end.
Pre coding! Rich nose with real density. Mahogany flavours somehow, Mature, rich but still exciting. Reverberant with a hint of ginger. Certainly ready.
AT THE OFFICE
ID 314058. Less explosive on the nose than the Clos du Mesnil 1999 (tasted but not released because not deemed up to scratch) but with real presence on the palate. Lots to bite on. Neat and a little more obviously exuberant than the 2000 Clos du Mesnil tasted the previous evening. Certainly no shortage of acidity. And lots of potential to age.
ID 414070. Krug started the harvest on 23 August, their earliest ever, but some grapes picked early in October because of vine shutdown. Frost in spring and then heat in summer shrank the crop.
This is a wine that positively bounces out of the glass! Real spine and concentration – exotic, explosive and yet beautifully balanced. Dried orange peel and spice. Great balance on the palate. Broader and more interesting and complex than the Clos du Mesnil 2003.
NB this is a repeat of the note already publishing in Krug 2002 arrives at last, for completeness. A blend of 40% Pinot Noir, 39% Chardonnay, 21% Pinot Meunier from a warm, dry, generous, homogeneous year, with 11 years' ageing on the lees.
This was tasted immediately after Krug 2003 and was so much more discreet and savoury than the 2003 on the nose. It is chock-full of acidity and life, is really muscular and much more intellectual. For the moment the 2002 is less obviously fruity than the 2003 - clearly a champagne for long ageing - like many other 2002s - but much more backward than any I can think of immediately. There is nothing in excess; a great example of the Krug art of assemblage. Very solid and concentrated but not heavy at all. The finish is notably dry. This may be an intellectual wine but it's certainly not hard work! For Julie Cavil of the Krug blending team, this wine is 'a racehorse'. 'You were still riding regularly then', winemaker Eric Lebel reminds her with a smile. For them '2002 is about the generosity of Nature. We had to work hard to limit the yield a bit. There was lots of richness in the base wines; each sample had great generosity'. I look forward very much to following the development of this exceptional wine.
ID 108001. 158th edition. Contains 76 different wines, including 10 vintages back to 1998.
Lift and delicacy on the nose. Vegy nose, great balance and very complex. Denser. Krug's Julie Cavil saw mint in Krug 2002 but I see it in this Grande Cuvée based on 2002 as the main ingredient.