Friday, September 5, 2014

Tasting Champagne at Krug in Reims, France

After lunch in Reims at a small sidewalk cafe where I had a fresh green salad with huge slabs of foie gras, we went to the House of Krug, which is located on the outskirts of the downtown area.  Though not an official tasting room, we were received with warm cordiality by Julie and Mylene, both in charge of Hospitality and Public Relations.

Our delegation was divided into two smaller groups and we were escorted through the cellars where we saw the barrels in which Krug ferments the base wine before transferring to stainless steel tanks to finish.  Next the blends are concocted, with usually over 100 different lots combined to create the amazing explosion of fireworks on your palate that Krug delivers.  Finally the wine is transferred to bottle where it undergoes secondary fermentation for as long as 7 years.

We passed long tunnels filled with riddling racks, because much of Krug is still hand-riddled.  The storage racks of dusty bottles, including many magnums brought sighs of longing from everyone.  We were especially impressed with the wine library that exhibited Krug Champagnes going back to the late 1800’s.

After the tour we relaxed in a salon with a glass of the Krug Grand Cuvee ($150 euros per bottle) and learned more about the story of Krug and how he started the business late in life with a focus on producing the highest quality Champagne.  We were allowed to see his diary and how he described his vision for the House.

Next we were escorted into the gardens of the chateau where four tables were set up under umbrellas to shield us from the bright sunny day.  The garden was exquisite, filled with flowers and green grass, and a perfect location for a tasting.

Mylene led us through the analysis of Krug Vintage 2003 ($200 euros) and Krug Vintage 2000 ($200 euros).  It was fascinating to taste the clear difference in these two wines, with the 2003 exhibiting strong structure, clear notes of brioche and red fruit, as well as an intriguing spice and pepper component.  The 2000 was in sharp contrast with lemon, flowers, and a dancing elegance on the tongue.

Next we tasted the Grand Cuvee again, and it was clear to everyone how the glory of the blend created a symphony of taste, whereas the single vintages were more like a smaller quartet.  The whole tasting was extremely enlightening, and were we able to understand the importance and art of blending in Champagne.

The highlight of the tasting was when Oliver Krug joined us in the garden and described his philosophy of winetasting and the meaning of Krug. He emphasized it was for enjoyment of life, and not to get hung up on all of the technical details.  However, he admitted that many loyal Krug customers still asked for information on the various vintages and percentage of varietals in the Grand Cuvee.  Therefore, they had just released a new Krug app for the IPhone as well as a bottle identification number so that customers who were interested could look up the details of their bottle. Even more fascinating was the fact that app recommended music to drink with the various cuvees.

As we departed from the House of Krug and boarded the bus, it seemed as if everyone was in a state of bemusement and bliss over such a fairytale visit.  It was definitely a day we will remember and treasure for the rest of our lives, with the birth of many new Krug ambassadors amongst us.

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