Blending masterclass at the Krug Celebration

May 07, 13 Blending masterclass at the Krug Celebration
the base wines

the base wines

They say the best time to taste wine is first thing in the morning. Although I’m not a morning person, AT ALL, I do tend to agree with this particular trope. And so, at 9am on our last day at Krug we were all assembled in the tasting room of the house to try our hand at blending a Grande Cuvee 2012.

Chef de Cave, Eric Lebel

Chef de Cave, Eric Lebel, explaining the 2012 base wines

Krug is one of the last houses to blend their ‘non-vintage’ champagne, the Grande Cuvee and they had just finished putting the 2012 version together a week or two earlier. Every year, they start with all over again, not considering what they have done in the past. Initially, Chef de Cave Eric Lebel and his team started out in September with over 300 wines to choose from to use for the blend.

our selection of base wines

our selection of base and reserve wines

Over the next few months they held one tasting a day to determine which should go into the blend. I asked Frederica, one of the winemakers,why they had only one tasting a day? Surely it would be faster to do 2 or 3 tastings each day. She said that they had tried to do 2 a day but in the end it was too difficult to give accurate assessments of the wines and so they reverted back to one tasting a day. Eric, has a special black notebook where he keeps notes on each of the wines tasted. He has to answer two questions every year: 1) to make a vintage champagne and 2) which wines should be saved as reserve wines. For 2012 it has been decided not to make a vintage Krug as the harvest was so small that they would not have enough wine left for the reserve if they made a vintage champagne.

calculating percentages

calculating percentages

On to our little experiments to create a Krug Grande Cuvee. As the previous day we had tried the base wines of 2012, now we were being giving a combination of chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot muenier – 16 2012’s and 12 reserve wines to make our own Krug Grande Cuvee 2012 blend. The oldest reserve wine being a 1996 pinot noir.

Frederica helping us out by doing a bit of measuring

Frederica helping us out by doing a bit of measuring

putting the blend together

putting the blend together

We were giving 2 and 1/2 hours to make our blend so we quickly got down to re-tasting the wines and then proceeded to divide up the percentages of what we thought should go into the blend. We decided on 70% 2012 wines and 30% reserve wines. It was a challenge to blend a batch of chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier. Each had to be done separately to ensure that we had the right blend before we combined them all in the grande cuvee blend. It might sound easy but it’s not! We also had to figure out what percentage of each wine would go into each the blend. There was a lot of maths going on around the table and we all at some point had our heads down with iPhones set to “calculator” in hand.  I’m not a fan of numbers but sometimes they are essential.

"blending" in a big beaker

“blending” in a big beaker

Finally, we had our blend and presented it along with the 3 other teams. We all had the chance to try the others’ blends and it was a provocative result. Despite having all the same wines, each of our wines were very different. One blend was rather flat. which we attributed to too much chardonnay used in the blend, the next was very good but with a bit too much fruit showing. One of the other tables had made a very good blend which we all enjoyed and ours, well, ours was built to last! Needless to say, we thought ours was the best 🙂

Afterwards, Eric told us the blend that Krug used for 2012. Here is it: 58% 2012 wines,  42% reserve wines, with 52% pinot noir, 35% chardonnay and 13% pinot muenier. We were quite chuffed that we had used 13.5% pinot muenier in our blend – maybe there is still hope to be a Krug champagne maker. In total, Krug used 198 different wines and 11 different years (the oldest reserve wine the 1991) for their 2012 Grande Cuvee.
After that tough morning of tasting and blending we were treated to a last lunch at the house. As a final surprise, we were served Krug Rose in magnum (2004 base) with our simple lunch of roast chicken, pumpkin puree and buckwheat. It was not a fancy meal but good hearty food and it matched very well with the rose.
Krug rose in magnum

Krug rose in magnum

at lunch

at lunch

rose bubbles

rose bubbles

Krug doesn’t usually do rose in magnum and these were the first ones they have opened so far. All too soon we had to catch our train back to Paris but it was a tremendous few days in the company of the Krugs and a fantastic experience. Look out for the Krug Grande Cuvee (base 2012) in 2020 when it should be ready for release.

pinot noir 2012 base wine

pinot noir 2012 base wine in the middle

3 Comments

  1. This is amazing! New story, idea and thoughts!That’s what just we needed. THANK YOU for posting this from us here Spit Roast Catering Sydney
    , we are very pleased and thankful at the same time. You never failed to suprise us we’d your posts.. A way to celebrate with us is to post more photos and that would be tremendously great as well! please do continue, thanks once again.

  2. This event must been fun! blending class are exciting. Sure the participants and teachers are happy doing the blending. Looks so great. thanks for sharing the pictures. At least, even though we are not there to attend the event, we’ve enjoyed the photos you have shared with us
    catering Sydney . we are looking forward for your next update. God bless.

  3. Hi! Hope you had a successful event and brisbane finger food hope that you will share more and more information; I will love to read about it.
    Thanks!!!

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