Vintage Cellars Ultimo’s Krug Masterclass was one of those occasions I will never forget. Fortunately, I’ve had a number of opportunities to sample top vintage cuvées from the celebrated Champagne Houses, but the chance to taste the Krug Clos du Mesnil 2003 (rrp $1,299.99) and the Krug Clos d’Ambonnay 1998 (rrp $3,299.99) was a very rare privilege indeed!
The World’s Most Expensive Champagnes
The quality of both these wines is undisputed, but what makes them so special and expensive is their scarcity. Both wines come from small 18th century walled vineyards on exceptional Grand Crus land.
Wine critic Tyson Stelzer describes the pure chalk based 1.85 hectare Clos du Mensil as the most famous vineyard in all of Champagne, and one of the finest chardonnay sites outside of Burgundy. In his opinion, the chalk imparts an “earth-shaking minerality” in the wine.
The Clos d’Ambonnay 1998 is exclusively pinot noir, and only the third release of a wine from a tiny (0.68 hectares) site in the village of Ambonnay – Krug’s favourite source for pinot noir. As Stelzer notes, the “Clos D’Ambonnay is Champagne’s very own La Romanée” with a price tag to match!
Krug pioneered the development of the non-vintage cuvée
In the mid 18th century founder Joseph Krug was one of the first to recognise that the best insurance policy against Champagne’s fickle weather was to create a non-vintage blend to guarantee consistency both in quality and style from year to year. Single vintage wines were only released in years when the vintage was deemed outstanding. The Krug Grand Cuvée Brut Champagne NV, a blend of more than 200 wines from multiple vineyards and different vintages, is regarded as a prestige cuvée and one of Champagne’s most coveted drops.
Consequently the decision to put substantial resources behind two single vineyard releases was not without its risks. Although Krug has been owned by French luxury goods giant LVMH since 1999, the Krug family continue to play an active role in the management of the House with fifth generation family member and former chef de cave Henri Krug credited as the brainchild behind the single vineyard releases.
One of the secrets to Krug’s success is its unique use of small, previously used oak casks for the initial fermentation. The practice allows the winery to work with very small fruit parcels, and helps to build richness and complexity in the wines. After a few weeks the wine is transferred to stainless steel vats. Stelzer credits the exposure of the wine to a small amount of oxygen as one of reasons why the wines can age magnificently without losing their freshness!
The Krug Grand Cuvée Brut Champagne NV is available on the Cellarit Wine Market for $239 a bottle.