Krug Grande Cuvée 166eme EditionThursday, November 1
We’re old enough to think first of brothers Henri and Rémi Krug whenever this great Champagne house is mentioned. Famously retiring and hard to engage in conversation, Henri Krug was nevertheless a very visible presence both at the house in Reims and at dinners and tastings around the world. He focused on winemaking, while Rémi was the businessman. It was they who came up with the concept of a ‘multi-vintage’ cuvee.
Blending is at the heart of champagne production, but the finer points of vinifying and marrying 120 or more base wines (138 in the case of the '166eme') are not easily conveyed to consumers. By the late 1980s Henri & Rémi were finding that their ‘Private Cuvee’ label was showing too much vintage character. In essence, the base constituent wines at Krug possess such a high degree of concentration that the usual approach to blending could easily fail to mask the strengths of a given year. Hence the extraordinarily complex approach to blending Grande Cuvee (and the label itself) was born.
Remi retired some years ago and Henri sadly passed away in 2013, but his son Olivier now runs the house. Some critics, notably Jancis Robinson, have been remarking on the inconsistency in style of Grande Cuvée over the last decade. Possibly for that reason Olivier and his team have decided to evolve the Grande Cuvée further, embracing vintage variations during the blending and allowing each release to express itself. Starting with the 163ème, the numbering makes it possible to identify the base vintage and indeed all the various vintages and plots involved in the blend. Each bottle has a code which can be entered on the Krug website (they even have an App!) showing the composition in detail.
The 166ème has been described as ‘intellectual’, based on the 2010 vintage and with a particularly powerful, structured influence from the Pinot Noir in the blend. Already with 7 years bottle age, this is drinking wonderfully now, but Krug also has tremendous aging potential to rival any Cru Classé. We can recall tasting a 1959 vintage (from magnum) at around 40 years of age, showing as fresh as is just released. Cellaring (as well as enjoying) a few bottles of each new edition of the Grande Cuvée should be a fascinating exercise.
NV Krug Grande Cuvée '166ème' Edition
100% grand cru vineyards. 45% Pinot Noir, 39% Chardonnay, 16% Pinot Meunier. Base vintage 2010 and 42% reserve wine. Seven years' ageing on lees. Disgorged winter 2017. Dosage 6 g/l.
"Tasted blind. Lemon yellow. Putty note. Deep straw. Rather yeasty nose with quite a bit of age in evidence. A little loosely textured with a very savoury note. Finishes very dry. Tense." 17.5 points" Jancis Robinson
"The 166th manifestation of Monsieur Krug’s inspiration has as its youngest year 2010 - a season described by Eric Lebel as ‘tumultuous’ - its fruits wonderfully complemented by 42% reserve wine going back to 1998. The final blend has only 16% Pinot Meunier, and unsurprisingly the 45% Pinot Noir is starting to assert itself with notes of nectarine and redcurrant garlanded by soft spices and honey, while Chardonnay’s citric grip remains discrete in the background. Despite its relative youth in terms of the Krug canon, this is already exceptionally complete and purer, maybe, than the Krugs of old. There's no compromise in terms of power and intellectual intrigue. 94 points" Decanter Magazine, October 2018
"Complexity from the very outset with praline, honey, grilled-hazelnut and nougat aromas leading to a fresh background of peaches, lemons and grapefruit. Chardonnay leads on the nose for now. The palate has finesse, fleshy appeal and terrific focus. Long, powerful and seamless. A strong edition of Grande Cuvée. Drink or hold. 94 points" jamessuckling.com