Confined each to our own nooks, Krug brought journalists from the Nordic countries together yesterday via Krug Connect for a launch of the 168th Edition of Grande Cuvée. Bottles had be sent to us in advance, so that we could discuss whilst sharing a glass of the house’s newest baby.
For the first time in the fore was Julie Cavil, the house’s brand new chef de cave who is no rookie at Krug having been with the maison since 2006.
(As a side remark, Julie Cavil is not, however, the first lady behind executive decisions about the House’s blends. It was during WWII in 1915 that Jeanne Krug had to step in for her husband Joseph Krug II!)
The beginning of Julie’s career as chef de cave is certainly one to remember as she has been constructing the blends under unusual circumstances due to the coronavirus pandemic’s restrictions. For example the tastings were limited to two panel members in one room, so communication took place over phones instead of face-to-face.
If the 2019 harvest offered these hurdles in the blending room, in the 2012 season (base year for the 168th edition of Grande Cuvée) the challenges took place in the vineyards. Winter and spring frosts, hailstorms and particularly wet beginning of the summer had slumped the expectations of the growers. But finally fine August weather rescued the quality of the crop, even if quantity remained modest. The small yield made Krug decide to invest the fine base wines of the year for future blends of Grande Cuvée, thus a significant amount was stocked away as reserve wines and no Krug Vintage was crafted. A valuable gift from previous chef de cave Eric Lebel to his successor, no doubt.
As a big fan of the vintage of especially fine Pinot Noir and Meunier, I have been quite looking forward to this Grande Cuvée surfacing from the cellars. A blend of 52% Pinot Noir, 35% Chardonnay and 13% Meunier, it took 198 different wines from 11 years to craft Joseph Krug’s dream wine, ‘the fullest expression of Champagne in one glass’. Chef de cave Julie remembers following the great 1996 Verzenay reserve wine in the tanks since the onset of her Krug career in 2006, and she says she felt emotional when the time came to include it in the 2012 blend as its oldest component among the 42% of reserve wines. She feels that some of the wine’s beeswax richness originates from that special wine.
My first taste was from bottle with Krug ID 219012 (so disgorged in the spring of 2019). Refined yet expressive nose with richness of ripe stone fruits, candied lemon, baked apple and ginger reaching the nose first, followed by a gentle spiciness for fresh oak wood. Time in the glass brings forward layers of charismatic and complex brioche, yeast and honeycomb tones. On the palate it is even surprisingly tight and focused, with its brisk, saline acidity lining the fine, ripe and pure fruitiness. Less approachable upon launch than some editions, but it’s every drop just oozes ageing capacity. A keeper. 95 points with a potential for 98.