Krug 2003: perfection from destruction

Almost no one made a vintage Champagne in 2003 due to unfavorable conditions. Krug did. And, it illustrates what kind of game they play. Best Champagne ever? So far. Best wine ever? Possibly.
THERE IS CHAMPAGNE AND THERE IS KRUG

The best producers make great wine every year–no matter what Mother Nature provides. I’ve tasted many Champagnes’ tĂŞte de cuvĂ©e, and their vintage Champagnes.

GC082515-(39)
Chalky vineyards in Champagne

But when I learned how challenging the vintage was for Krug, and how much internal debate was had, I knew 2003 was special: spring frost; excessive heat; uneven ripening; earliest harvest since 1822. Yet Krug still made a vintage Champagne.

RARE AS GOLD, ALMOST AS EXPENSIVE

They didn’t make much: 2003 comprised only 10% of Krug’s production that year–which was a mere 0.1% of total production in Champagne.

When a friend says she wants to purchase a special wine to celebrate the closing of her house sale, I’m ready: “What’s the best Champagne you can buy?” she asks.

Krug.

To be sure, I ask my Wine Shark friends if anything is better. Debate arises, but is firmly quashed when price factors in. And, that’s not to say vintage Krug is cheap: our bottle is $225 plus almost 10% sales tax. And, prices have risen since. Some might question how could a wine–especially a Champagne–be that good. I’m assured it is. I’ve not spent this much on a Champagne. I’ve never actually drank Krug–just tiny tastes at wine shops. This is uncharted territory. Not to mention, a crazy vintage.

PREPARATION IS EVERYTHING

I pull the bottle a half hour before opening, so it rises to optimum drinking temp, before it becomes more explosive. I prefer any white warmer than fridge, so it can wake up and breathe–also the reason I use large Burgundy bowl stemware for Champagne: delicate, complex aromas take time and surface area to evolve and present their finest expressions. Especially for a young, rich vintage Krug like their 2003.

YOU ARE NOT READY FOR THIS

I’ve enjoyed a multitude of fine wines over 20 years. Many were spectacular bottles. Almost none are on the short list of best ever. This one makes it to No.1 or No.2 as soon as I try a tiny sip. It’s hard to fully describe, but I’ll attempt to give a sense.

Krug2003
Best ever?

The attack is the most perfectly balanced mouthful of cold bubbling liquid I’ve tasted: red and yellow apple, yellow pear, lemon and grapefruit zest, ripe pineapple, green plum; honeysuckle, candied ginger, vanilla, baking spices; roasted hazelnut, almond, pistachio; brioche, dough, yeast; brine, chalk. Just enough acid offsets massive richness to make the wine impossibly light yet very rich. Mammoth body, huge mouthfeel; monumentally long finish. Staggering. And that’s just the first sip–give it time. Ummm. I might need a moment.

CHECK ID

Krug has a tracking system for each bottle they offer, giving insight into the complexities of production. Ours is 113015.

Krug 2003:

  • 46% pinot noir
  • 29% chardonnay (normally over 40%)
  • 25% pinot meunier
  • Disgorged (received its cork) winter 2012/2013

Hard to give it time–it’s so delicious–we cannot help ourselves. Glasses are far too easily finished. Giggle outbursts ensue. Gourmet snacks I serve seem meaningless: JamĂłn ibĂ©rico, truffled marcona almonds, Parmigiano Reggiano, and Tall Grass Bakery’s baguette with 82% Normandy butter. While they’re excellent, they’re outmatched.

I’m still in shock, incredulous that a wine can be this exquisite. Complexity and length are otherworldly. While I register the profundity of the moment, I barely snap a few photos before it’s gone. Shaking my head almost continuously, it’s hard to grasp what just happened.

I have entered another dimention of wine: perfection. A hard act to follow.

IF YOU GO
Krug 2003 has been sold out for a while. And, good luck trying to find another bottle: it’s one of the rarest current vintages, due to all the press it got upon release. That being said, it’s worth acquiring–because it’s so different from other Champagnes–even other vintages of Krug.
All images and content copyright ©2017 Eric Schadel. All rights reserved.

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