I was very surprised and more than a little bit skeptical when I heard the rumor that Krug would release a 2003 vintage Champagne. As many of you know, 2003 was a torridly hot vintage in Europe and the earliest harvest in Champagne since 1822. This 2003 is the earliest harvest in the history of Krug, which was founded in 1843! Most early, hot vintages in Champagne are saved by Chardonnay, the freshest of the big three grape varieties, but in 2003 2/3’s of the Chardonnay crop was destroyed by an April frost. This has made for the most difficult vintage in my 14 years as Champagne buyer here at K&L, and by quite a large margin.
Few have declared this vintage; Bollinger did, but decided to call it “2003 by Bollinger” rather than Bollinger "Grande Année" 2003. Moet took a big position on this vintage, declaring both grand vintage and Dom Perignon in brut and rose. Since LVMH owns both Krug and Moet, it made me even more skeptical of the declaration. When I met Krug Ambassador Garth Hodgon to taste the 2003, I did my best to keep an open mind.
I was pleasantly surprised when Garth arrived with not just the 2003, but also the 2000 to taste next to it. He explained that they had made less than 1/3 of the amount that they usually vintage in 2003, an amount that will only represent 5% of production. Grand Cuvee is 80-85%. He also surprised me by giving the cepage; it is composed of 46% Pinot Noir, 31% Meunier and 23% Chardonnay. Using the Krug ID (this bottle was 113015) I found even more solid information. The wine was disgorged about a year ago in the winter 2012/ 2013 after 9 years of ageing on the lees and took advantage of some of the cooler sites on the north facing slope of the Mountain of Reims. The only thing left now was to taste it.
I feel the 2003 Krug Brut Champagne ($219, expected in early March) has it in the bottle. It had a golden color that was touched with green, and a warm, pie crust like nose that was more than a little bit malic. Aromatically, I felt that this had a lot going on and was not a one note player the way that almost all the other 2003’s I have tried have been. In the mouth it was very rich with caramel apple and brioche flavors and a broad texture. The finish was super dry, and if I had to guess I would speculate that this is dosed in the extra brut range- 6g/liter or less. I think that our wine journalist friends are going to love it- watch for big scores in the Wine Spectator etc… This is impressive stuff.
The 2000 Krug Brut Champagne ($199) was very elegant and subtle by comparison. I think many of us will prefer this for current drinking, but given how wonderfully the super ripe 1976 Krug Brut Champagne is drinking right now, I wouldn’t count the 2003 out for keeping. What a treat!
A toast to you!