On the Trail

Krug "Grande Cuvée" 166 Ème Édition Sets the Bar High

champagneKate Soto

We just received our first little allocation of the Krug "Grande Cuvée" 166 Ème Édition Brut Champagne, and I wasted no time in trying one. I had it my favorite way, at home with Cinnamon and her good cooking. In the spirit of Krug’s pairing initiative this year “Krug X Fish,” she prepared some lovely sole with capers and fresh local asparagus with eggs from colleagues’ chickens.

The 166th edition of Krug Grande Cuvée is made up of wines from 1998 to 2010, ten vintages in all were selected, and 140 lots. The Krug ID on my bottle was 117006, and it was disgorged in winter of 2017, so it was truly a fresh bottle, as Krug does not sell anything until at least six months after disgorgement. The 166 is composed of 45% Pinot Noir, 39% Chardonnay, and 16% Meunier. Only 58% of the blend is 2010; the rest are reserves, and counterintuitively, chef de cave Eric Lebel found high-acid Meunier to be key to bringing this wine the freshness it needed.

I think this is the most concentrated Grand Cuvée that I have drunk young. My suspicion is that little, and perhaps no vintage wine will be made at Krug in 2010, allowing them to use lots that would normally go into more expensive wines. This is the conundrum of multi-vintage blends. The market scrambles for lots like the 164—which had a majority of the great 2008 in it. But, we know that there will almost certainly be not only Krug vintage 2008, but also Clos du Mesnil and Clos Ambonnay, meaning those wines were not available for the Grande Cuvée. Many at Krug say that the best Grande Cuvée that they have drunk is the 157—which is mostly from the miserable 2001 vintage. They put all the best stuff in it—that is something to think about.

The wine was loaded with limey, Puligny-like drive and a ton of chalky minerality, and I would have guessed that it had even more than the 39% Chardonnay that they did use in it. It cut the fish like a razor blade, and had fantastic structure and chalky length. I think this is a great one to put down for a few years. It is brimming with power.

I don’t know how much of this we will get over the coming months, and I suspect it will only arrive in dribs and drabs. We received only one-third the amount of 165 as 164, and although I hope that is an aberration, I am worried that worldwide demand will see this Champagne become more and more tightly allocated. Get it while you can—Krug Grande Cuvée is truly one of the great wines of the world, and at home on the table with $1000+ bottles of Bordeaux and Burgundy.

A toast to you!

- Gary Westby