Earlier this year, Margareth (Maggie) Henriquez, the President and CEO of Krug Champagne, came to my office, a few bottles of Krug in tow. (Now that’s my idea of a business meeting). In rapid fire speech, she began to explain something that I’ve never understood—namely: how is it that Krug considers all of its Champagnes prestige cuvées?
Here’s why Krug’s contention has never made sense to me (and why I chalked it up to marketing spin). In the traditional hierarchy, a House’s prestige cuvée, or top-of-the-line wine, differs from its basic non-vintage brut in a number of ways.
The prestige cuvée wine is usually made only in the very best years, from the very best (often Grand Cru rated) vineyards. It’s usually vintage dated; and usually only chardonnay and pinot noir are used (pinot meunier is excluded). A prestige cuvée ages much longer on its yeast lees—up to ten years is common, compared to a basic Champagne’s 15-month legal minimum for aging on the lees. Most obvious of all: a prestige cuvée is almost always the House’s most expensive wine.
Krug calls its Grand Cuvée a prestige cuvée although it meets few of the criteria above.
Yet Henriquez had a completely different way of thinking about the Grand Cuvée.
According to her, when Joseph Krug founded the House in 1843, he envisioned two wines: one, a vintage-dated wine which Henriquez called “a wine of circumstance”—that is, it told the story of a particular year. And the second wine Joseph Krug wanted to make was a “new edition” of excellence every year.
This second wine would still be based on extraordinary vineyards and it would satisfy the most important prestige cuvée criteria of all according to Henriquez—namely, it would appreciate in quality with age. As for meunier, “you’d never have Krug without meunier,” says Henriquez, for whom it gives “entry lightness” on the palate.
The bottom line: going forward, all Krug Grand Cuvée Champagnes will be known by their “editions.” The current Krug GC for example, is Edition 163.
In the end, I think this still boils down to clever marketing, although Joseph Krug’s notion of a new edition of Champagne every year has undeniable appeal (and of course is based in fact).
Best of all, in the absence of a vintage date, it gives us a new way of knowing something about what’s in the bottle. Twenty years from now, if you uncover a stash of Krug in some old wine shop, it will be helpful to know if it’s Edition 163, or Edition 183.