Krug Celebration – a tasting, Clos d’Ambonnay & Clos du Mesnil

May 03, 13 Krug Celebration – a tasting, Clos d’Ambonnay & Clos du Mesnil
Krug 1981 Magnum

Krug 1981 Magnum

Despite all that Krug the night before, I didn’t have even a headache the next day. I’m not sure if that is is a good or bad thing, the ability to drink copious amounts of Krug and feel fine the next day but maybe I’m just lucky.

old oak barrels

old oak barrels

Krug branded barrel

Krug brand barrel

We started bright and early with a short tour of the cellars and the winery. Krug uses oak barrels for all its fermenting and aging. However, as Eric pointed out, the barrels are all old barrels, most averaging about 20 years of age, the oldest dating back to 1964. An interesting side note, all champagne houses historically used oak barrels until the 1960’s when the change was made, seemly en masse, to stainless steel or concrete.

Chef de Cave, Eric Lebel (R) and his winemaking team

Chef de Cave, Eric Lebel (R) and his winemaking team

After the tour, we commenced a tutored tasting of the 2012 vintage base wines. Chef de Cave Eric Lebel and his team of winemakers walked us through the 2012 vintage. Krug had just finished blending their 2012 Grande Cuvee and it was fascinating to get to try the base wines or vin clair as they are called in French. The base wines are still wines that are blended before going through the second fermentation. Kurg uses chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier in their Grande Cuvee.

Eric speaking about the barrels

Eric speaking about the barrels

black ribbon means the tank is empty

black ribbon means the tank is empty

2012 was a difficult year, having late frost, mildew and uneven flowering but luckily a warm and sunny August and September saved the vintage and although it was small, it has proven to be a great year. If you’ve never tried base wines, let me tell you now, it’s not exactly a pleasurable experience – base wines are naturally very acidic with not a lot of body, they’re not meant to be drunk now but only after going through the second fermentation and after many years in the cellar.

at work in the winery

at work in the winery

Trying the base wines certainly does give you an appreciation for the imagination, artistry and hard work that goes into blending the wines that eventually become champagne. Krug have 3 main criteria when they are choosing the grapes used for the blend – good terroir, good vineyard management and healthy plants, all of which can be tasted and smelled even at the very early stage of base wine tasting. The 2012 chardonnays were extremely aromatic, the pinot noirs having fabulous acidity and structure and the pinot meuniers had intense fruit flavours.

1998 Clos d'Ambonnay

1998 Clos d’Ambonnay

plastic bubbles in the vineyards

bubbles in the Clos

plastic bubbles in the clos

Plastic bubbles in the Clos

After the tasting it was time for a long leisurely lunch at the house followed by a visit to the fabled Clos d’Ambonnay. Clos means ‘enclosed’ and the Clos d’Ambonnay is a walled in vineyard that is a tiny 1.6 acres in size and planted entirely with pinot noir.

pouring '98 Clos d'Ambonnay

pouring ’98 Clos d’Ambonnay

er, enjoying the '98 a lot!

er, enjoying the ’98 a lot!

The vineyard itself is over 100 years old and there are only about 15 in all of Champagne. In contrast to the Grande Cuvee and Vintage Krug, the Clos d’Ambonnay is 100% pinot noir. As it was a rather chilly day, Krug not only served bubbles (the 1998 Clos d’Ambonnay) but we also had a huge plastic bubble to take cover. The 1998 was a complex champagne with great structure and elegance, what struck me was the freshness of the champagne, a serious thirst quencher.

1983 Krug Clos de Mesnil

1983 Krug Clos de Mesnil

If that wasn’t enough, that evening we had dinner in another legendary clos, the Clos du Mesnil. The clos is composed of 5 different small plots and is divided by age, the oldest dating from the early ’70’s and the youngest vines just planted in 2011. As the vineyard is 5 distinct plots, every year they produce 5 different wines, stored in 5 different barrels and then blended in the Spring. As the clos is only 1.2 hectares, only 9,000- 14,000 bottles are produced every year. Clos du Mesnil is like Clos d’Ambonnay only planted with one grape, this one being chardonnay.

interior of the tent

interior of the tent

Krug pulled out the stops and despite the miserable weather, it’s hard to be unhappy when you’re sipping on Krug 2000 as an aperitif in the family house in Mesnil. Dinner was served in a “tent”, complete with not one but four crystal chandeliers, amongst the vines and was the first time they’ve ever had such an event at the clos.

1992 Krug Clos de Mesnil in magnum

1992 Krug Clos de Mesnil

lilies in the Krug tent

lilies in the Krug tent

Highlights of the meal included Krug 2000, Clos de Mesnil 1983, Grande Cuvee 1992 in magnum and of course, the Grande Cuvee. The 1983 Clos du Mesnil was outstanding and such a treat with dinner. A deep, rich colour with almost sherry like notes on the nose, nutty and rich with great citric notes – luscious, long and persistent but still, a crisp wine, not showing it’s age at all on the palate, “alluringly seductive” is what I have scribbled down in my notes.

At dinner with Olivier Krug and the '92 Clos de Mesnil

At dinner with Olivier Krug and the ’92 Clos de Mesnil

2000 Krug Clos de Mesnil

2000 Krug Clos de Mesnil

Despite the wind and rain, it was a fantastic evening and a true Krug Celebration!

everything you need for a rainy Spring day, Krug

Everything you need for a rainy Spring day

2 Comments

  1. Hi Denise
    I am always interested in your posts, but these two Krug blogs are absolutely stunning. I have an intro tour to Krug in Reims later this month.
    If I had a Krug observation, it is the slight shift of GC style to more citrus and approachable from the (what I considered) a trademark depth and intensity of the blends of 10+ years ago. Agree, or is it just me?
    If you ever need to bounce ideas or aquire a fellow champagne taster, please feel free to call on me!
    Keep up the great work.
    Best wishes
    Alastair

    • winesleuth /

      I wonder if it really a shift in style or just the fact that grapes are riper nowadays. I still think the GC still has quite a bit of depth to it. One interesting thing about 2012 is that Krug petitioned to do the 2012 harvest earlier then their neighbours. I’m always happy to drink champagne with fellow champagne lovers! Keep an eye out for my post on the Krug Celebration where we get to blend our own version of 2012 KGC. Thanks for stopping by!

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