Krug Grand Cuvée Champagne: Joining the Cult of Krug
The first time I ever heard of Krug Champagne was in novelist and wine writer Jay McInerney’s collection of wine essays Bacchus and Me. In an essay on Krug, McInerney shares an account of a man at an open champagne bar asking for another glass of Krug, being told they were out, (of Krug) but perhaps the gentleman would like a glass of the Cristal instead? He opted for Perrier.
Something about this anecdote stuck with me. Imagine having so strong a preference for a brand of Champagne, you’d opt for a sparkling water if you couldn’t get a glass of it. What could something like that possibly taste like? I put Krug on my “to-try” bucket list when I was 19, but it was a decade before I got the chance.
Krug Grande Cuvée is a weird Champagne on paper. It’s a non-vintage blend of wine from 120 different plots, and 10 different years. Due to this blending, a Krug is released every year, regardless of climate variations. This flies in the face of most prestige Champagnes that pride themselves on only bottling the best years and marking up the price accordingly for the privilege. Krug’s flagship bottle does the opposite, and pats themselves on the back for it. In their own marketing language, Krug is “the most generous expression of Champagne.”
My fiance Christine (soon to be wife — two weeks after this goes up) is on record as saying she prefers Prosecco to Champagne. But for her 29th Birthday, which happened to be her Champagne Birthday, a glass of Italian Bubbly simply wasn’t going to cut it. And with a conveniently-timed small windfall, we decided to spend frivolously on an upwards-of-$300 bottle of Krug Grand Cuvée Champagne. What resulted was probably one of the most difficult reviews I’ve ever personally undertaken. Here’s what I thought:
Krug Grande Cuvée Champagne Review
Luckily Christine had the presence of mind to film me while I tried Krug — I’m not really sure any handwritten notes would have accurately captured the tasting. Every single bottle of Krug Grande Cuvée comes with a unique ID that lets you log into through their website to a place where you can learn the story of your bottle. Our ID was 118006, for anyone interested to learn more.
In the glass, Krug immediately starts flexing on less legendary sparkling wines. It is a deep yellow, almost gold. About two shades darker than even vintage champagnes I’ve tasted, and it makes Prosecco look like club soda in comparison. It’s very effervescent, with lively, rapid bubbles rising in straight columns. Krug swirls thickly, and its legs are big and juicy, absolutely clinging to the glass. Before Krug even gets in your mouth you know you’re in for something THICC.
On the nose things begin to get really interesting. The first thing I got a hit of was earth — in my video of the tasting I said “fresh soil”, right at the end of the sniff. Jay McInerney described truffles. For this amateur, I could definitely see Shitake mushrooms, but nice and refined, not like “shit the wines corked” funky or anything. There’s a pleasant yeastiness, sort of like risen dough. I could also smell a relatively subtle floralness, and a hint of spice, you could say allspice.
After a sip it became apparent why this was going to be such a difficult review. Krug is like nothing I’ve ever tried in my life, both in taste and texture. My first quote was “Woah” as Christine said “Ooooh that’s…different!” We had just enjoyed a bottle of Taittinger a couple weeks prior, and suffice to say this was not like that.
First, the body of this Champagne is richer than I’ve ever had in my life. Less like a sparkling wine, and more like unfiltered apple cider, it absolutely clings to your tongue with an unctuousness like melted butter. Put it this way — this isn’t a crisp bubbly perfect for wetting your whistle on a warm summer afternoon. As for taste, Krug is overwhelming to describe. Every sip seems to stack on each other, with the finish lingering so long you’re only ever adding to it, not replacing it with your next sip.
It’s fairly round, with a pronounced nuttiness, like almond-forward marzipan — at the start. There’s a notable sweetness, with a honey-smeared-on-bread thing going on. And just as you swallow, some citrus and acidity creeps through to offset the sweetness. It’s a bit like grapefruit. The earth on the nose is there, and is the backbone of the truly endless finish. There’s so much more to be said, but I was getting exhausted just trying to eke it all out.
So how to rate something like this? I felt dwarfed by the experience. My dumb palate insufficient for the task at hand. In the start of the video review I say “I might be a Dom man over Krug.” But by the end I was saying “the more I drink this the more I’m enjoying this,” and that was only accelerating long after the recording stopped. Krug is unlike any Champagne (or really any drink) I’ve ever had. There’s an inherent elegance to it, a deep complexity, and a uniqueness that just might justify its absurd price. For those reasons, and the fact that I’ve been thinking about how to get my hands on it most days since the original tasting, I’m giving it a 10. If you want a bubbly that makes you go “Woah” than Krug is definitely worth sipping slow.