On the Trail

Uncovering Krug's Value

Alex Schroeder

Champagne as a grape-growing region can be rather finicky. In a bad year some or most-of the crops can be severely damaged by a late frost, fungus, excessive heat or any other number of possible problems. How is it then, that the Krug Champagne House can offer exceptional-quality Champagne year after year, uninterrupted? When Joseph Krug began the Krug Champagne house in 1843, his aim was to be able to do that, and the system he and his descendants created is one of the most time-consuming, complex and impressive processes in the industry. It takes over twenty years to complete, but it’s well worth it, because it gives us the flagship Grande Cuvée — the gold standard for luxury, non-vintage Champagne, and the poster child for consistency. To prepare for these “off-vintages” Krug has amassed a library of over 150 different wines—Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay—from exceptional vintages going back to 1990.  Each year, a panel of five tasters—including house head Olivier Krug—convenes to taste each and decide which 120 will be used to achieve the most generous expression of Champagne each year. 

You can look up exactly what the blend of your bottle is online by typing in the code on the back at krug.com. This means the Grande Cuvée can feature beautifully aged, barrel-fermented wines alongside fresher vintages; or the full rich flavors of ripe vintages with the freshness and acidity of cooler ones. It creates a unique flavor profile deserving of deep contemplation, and unlike anything you could ever get from a single vintage. The Grande Cuvée has a core of dark fruit that is full and powerful, but still allows for the presence of delicate aged-Burgundy notes and the mellow flavors of ripe stone fruit, honeysuckle with subtle toasty brioche. There is wonderful chalky minerality, and a vibrant mousse made full and creamy by the minimum six-years aging on the lees. The flavors are seamless and expressive at once, and the balance ensures that it would age gracefully for decades to come. The Grande Cuvée certainly isn’t the least expensive Champagne K&L offers, but it may very well be the best value you’ll find on the shelf.

-Alex Schroeder