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Wine of the Week • 23 November 2020

Olivier Krug, great, great, great grandson of Joseph Krug who founded the famed Champagne House in 1843

Edition 168 is composed of 198 wines from 11 different years. The youngest is 2012, while the oldest dates back to 1996

Champagne Krug Grande Cuvée Edition 168

The last time I saw Olivier Krug was in Maison Krug on rue Coquebert in Reims. That was two years ago.

(I was due to visit again this year until something called Covid intervened).

The Frenchman was the most animated when he spoke about the founder of the house, his great, great, great grandfather Joseph Krug.

I have known Olivier for about 25 years and it was wonderful to see him so invigorated when recalling the leitmotif of his ancestor which was – and remains – the sparkle behind Grande Cuvée since 1843.

To offer the very best Champagne every year, regardless of annual variations in climate

Two weeks ago, this time in Singapore, a friend brought a bottle of Edition 168 to dinner.

I have appended the technical details of the wine from their website for your information.

The base wine of Edition 168 is the 2012 vintage.

From winter to spring, the weather swung like an wild pendulum. The vineyards of Champagne endured frost, rain, storms and hale. Humans have legs and we can run for cover. A vineyard is an open target come rain, shine or worse.

Luckily, when it mattered most, 2012 experienced the driest ripening season since 1974. That said, we must remember Joseph Krug’s motivation behind creating Grande Cuvée.

To offer the very best Champagne every year, regardless of annual variations in climate

You will not be surprised then that reserve wines comprise a staggeringly high 42% in Edition 168.

The magic of great Champagne lies in the art of great blending. Blending per se does nothing for the wine if performed by an ingenue whatever the gender.

It takes expertise, experience and vision to fashion something exceptional from seemingly disparate, different parts of the vineyard puzzle.

At Maison Krug, having practised it since 1843 (actually before, since it was always in Joseph Krug’s mind to do that even before founding his house) blending is not so much art as it is instinct. It’s in their DNA. And will show up in any bubble – or blood – test.

Edition 168 is incredibly closed. I looked at my tasting notes and it revealed as much. Ripe, rich, intense, long, firm, dry. For the moment, the Pinot character dominates, swaggering with incredible power and concentration. The two black varieties add up to 65%.

If you have the patience, my advice is not to open Edition 168 until 2023 or, earliest, end 2022. The wine will easily continue to evolve another 10 and more years.

Except, most of us don’t have patience. So, here is the very least you must do to get the most out of this incredible wine.

Serve Edition 168 straight out of the fridge. In a glass with a generous mid-body.

Don’t put the bottle in an ice bucket.

Leave it on the table.

Bruch Violin Concerto No 1 or Buddy Guy Skin Deep should be serenading in the background.

P.S. Grande Cuvée Edition 168 was served blind. I mistook it for another wine, made in quite the same way and comprising 55% Pinot Noir to Krug’s 53% Pinot Noir. More about that wine another time.

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