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Krug unveils its 2003 vintage

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Krug Champagne is basically known for its non-vintage bubbles. Keep in mind, though, these are not your basic NV Champagnes. To my mind, the rosé is possibly the most stunning Champagne I have ever had. Krug makes Champagne for the connoisseur. The wines are about subtlety and precision of flavors. They don’t scream; they whisper. They have an almost cult-like following of enthusiasts.

What many people don’t know is that Krug does occasionally release vintage wines. The current vintage, which was just released, is 2003. This seemed odd to me as the 2003 vintage was not considered a very good one in Champagne. The stellar vintage was 2002, which Krug has not released.

When I asked Olivier Krug – the fifth generation of his family to run the house - about this, he told me that they don’t follow specific recipes about how things should be done. They had some plots in the 2003 that produced excellent grapes. They blended those together and felt now was when it was ready to be drunk.

He also said that doesn’t mean they won’t release a 2002 vintage Champagne at a later date. There’s precedence for that at Krug. The 1989 vintage was released before the 1988 vintage. When I asked what the next vintage would be, I was told they haven’t decided yet.

According to Eric Lebel, Krug’s Chef de Caves: "Our philosophy is to select grapes from individual plots which will each express their distinctive features, their nuances and their uniqueness. There is no hierarchy in our selection, no plot is favored over another. A plot may sometimes be smaller than a garden. What interests us is the character, the contrast between the grapes from different plots. Krug is the only Champagne House to capture the essence of each unique plot in an individual wine.”

I had the chance to compare and contrast the Krug Grand Cuvee NV and the Krug 2003 vintage the other night. Both open with a fairly aggressive mousse (bubbles). When that fades back you find subtle notes of fresh brioche and Meyer lemon. These are by no means fruity or assertive wines. They are elegant, contemplative and age worthy. The vintage wine is strikingly similar to the Grand Cuvee, the major difference being the vintage wine is even more subtle and precise.

The Krug Grand Cuvee NV is widely available for about $150 per bottle. Crush Wine & Spirits has the Vintage 2003 for $200. The Krug Rose NV is available at Uncorked Wine Co. for $369 per bottle.

Krug also has two special bottlings. “Clos de Mesnil” is only up to the 2000 vintage right now, and sells at Sherry-Lehmann for $800. Krug Clos du Mesnil is a blanc de blanc made from grapes from a single plot of Chardonnay, located in 4.5-acre vineyard that has been protected by walls since 1698.

While this might seem old, the “Clos d’Ambonnay” is only in the 1998 vintage. This wine is made from grapes from a small, walled, 1.7-acre plot of Pinot Noir from the heart of Ambonnay, one of the most distinguished villages for this grape variety. Crush Wine & Spirits has this in stock for $2000 per bottle.

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