There is Champagne, and then there is Krug.
Since its founding in 1843 by Johann-Joseph Krug, it has been regarded as the ultimate connoisseur’s Champagne. Krug was a German immigrant from Mainz who entered the Champagne trade, and developed the belief that undisputed quality would always triumph over competition and market conditions. His obsessive attention to detail, passed down through six generations, has made Krug a distinctive and singular brand.
I recently had the opportunity to taste through the current releases with Margareth Henriquez, President of Champagne Krug. Henriquez is an animated and passionate advocate who is on a mission to restore the history of the house; her efforts have included unearthing the original cellar book of Johann-Joseph Krug, and sharing his insights with the world. Most importantly, she is carrying on the uncompromising attitude of the Krug family.
The cornerstone of production is Grande Cuvée ($175), a “multi-vintage” Champagne that contains wine from ten or twelve different years, and is aged for six more before release. It is rich, deep and resonant, with excellent acidity and an assortment of vivid citrus flavors. The Rosé ($350), also multi-vintage, has a pale salmon color and glorious flavors of raspberries and wild strawberries, wrapped in an earthy yet appealing style.
Anyone lucky enough to taste vintage Krug will likely not forget the experience. The 1998 ($300) is concentrated and meaty, with fabulous acidity and just a suggestion of red fruits; it has a tremendous palate imprint and a long, lingering finish. The extraordinary 1998 Clos de Mesnil ($1000) is its polar opposite—an extremely rare, Blanc de Blancs Champagne made from a walled five-acre Chardonnay vineyard. It sings on the palate like an aria rendered by a top soprano, filled with vibrant flavors of citrus, honey and almonds, with hints of vanilla and allspice.
Krug is now part of the Moet Hennessy empire, yet quality remains very high and the Champagnes are a unique, treasured experience. Henri and Remi are still involved in the blending process, and Olivier is an active ambassador for the brand. Their Champagnes are not cheap, to be sure, but they are an extraordinary glimpse into a world without compromise.