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WineChap’s Krug cuvée-blending battle

Will the top wine blogger’s attempts at aromatic assemblage make for sublime sipping or a case of sour grapes?

WineChap’s Krug cuvée-blending battle

January 11 2013
Tom Harrow

Part: 1 | 2

WineChap is in France for the inaugural Krug Celebration Week.

The next morning we were split into teams to blend our own Krug grand cuvée. All present were experienced and specialised wine communicators, but few had been faced with the challenge of composing a convincing statement from the liquid itself. Team WineChap began assembling our 2011 base wines, intending to fill in any obvious aroma and flavour deficiencies with our selection of reserve wines. This led us to go long on Pinots from 2011 as we thought, with few exceptions, the Chardonnay was the weaker grape from the vintage (which was erratic, with some Pinots from Montagne de Reims picked ahead of the Chardonnay).

We chose vins clairs (pictured) from Ambonnay, described as “very Krugy”, for their power and structure; bouzy for flesh and its masculine but rounded character; mareuil for charm and elegance and verzy for its sheer class. Although Pinot Noir from Verzenay is important for Krug, we left it out and instead rounded out the base with some magnificent Pinot Meunier from Ste-Gemmes, which had perhaps the most exciting aromatics of all the 2011 wines, and a healthy dollop of Chardonnay from sites in Mesnil and Cramant.

We then took the full 50 per cent complement of reserve wines allowed, intending primarily to balance our lack of Chardonnay in the base. Knowing how older wines can tend to dominate the blend, we went very easy on the ’96 verzenay (Pinot) and 2000 mesnil and chose some lovely ’04 chouilly and ’07 cramant. So impressed had we been by our Pinot Meunier vineyard that we finished with some older 2010 ste-gemmes as a tribute to this too often underappreciated grape, which Krug at least fully recognises.

Our finished blend comprised 18 wines, 10 from 2011 and the rest from 1996-2010. Eric pointed out that the acidity was a little forced, and so the mid-palate was slightly unbalanced, conceding however that we did have very charming aromatics. We then sampled the final blend that he and his team had recently assembled from 194 wines, from 13 vintages back to 1995. One of the interesting characteristics was a decidedly bubble-gum aromatic, which we had striven to avoid – clearly our inexperience meant we did not recognise how these aromas would transform with age and a secondary fermentation. No sour grapes though – metaphorically, at least.

Lunch back at the château was a chance to compare notes with other guests and reflect with our hosts and the lifestyle journalists who had been on a slightly separate itinerary (probably visiting local spas while we wrestled with test tubes and measuring cylinders).

Sadly, I had to depart early as I was due back in London to host a wine dinner, previewing our “Game Drives & Wine Flights” safari in South Africa’s Kruger (the subject of a future post). Charging late into Gare du Nord and queuing in the unseasonal heat, I was perspiring in a most unseemly fashion and wanted to reassure fellow travellers that their looks of disdain were misplaced – it was mostly ’61 Krug drenching my brow.

See also

Champagne, Krug