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 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 winecommunicators, but few had been faced with the challenge of composing aconvincing statement from the liquid itself. Team WineChap beganassembling our 2011 base wines, intending to fill in any obvious aroma andflavour deficiencies with our selection of reserve wines. This led us togo long on Pinots from 2011 as we thought, with few exceptions, the Chardonnaywas the weaker grape from the vintage (which was erratic, with some Pinots fromMontagne de Reims picked ahead of the Chardonnay).

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

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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 ’07cramant. So impressed had we been by our Pinot Meunier vineyard that wefinished with some older 2010 ste-gemmes as a tribute to this too oftenunderappreciated grape, which Krug at least fully recognises.

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

Lunch back at the châteauwas a chance to compare notes withother guests and reflect with our hosts and the lifestyle journalists who hadbeen on a slightly separate itinerary (probably visiting local spas while wewrestled with test tubes and measuring cylinders).

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

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