Champagne Krug Clos d’Ambonnay
Krug is it, Monsieur le President!
by Alain Gayot
Since it’s no longer politically correct to take the Gulfstream Jet around, we suggest you trade it in for a couple of cases of Krug Clos d’Ambonnay. It seems the two have about the same value these days. Yes, at $2,250 a bottle, this ultra Champagne is très cool, très, très bon and très, très, très cher… but no one has to know it costs that much, right?
Set up a listing on eBay and get rid of the kerosene-guzzling airplane and do the environment some good; Sarah Palin did it. The big difference is that you’d be hard-pressed to sell the carbon-footprint-handicapped flying machine in these economic times; while filling your Riedel flute with a few drops of the golden beverage is nearly impossible.
With only 1,800 bottles produced and fans like Russian tycoon Roman Abramovich and the Queen of England, most of the newest release, the 1996 vintage, has been accounted for. Except at least for two bottles that I had my hands on recently at the none-other-than Beverly Hills’ posh Montage Hotel courtesy of Olivier Krug himself and I had at least a full glass – tres lucky me. Can you imagine if I had spilled a glass, that would have been like a new set of tires for the old Ford Taurus. Oh yeah, there was also one at Sixteen restaurant in Donald Trump’s namesake glorious Chicago Hotel. By the way, he probably got a case, too, for Mar-a-Lago. I wonder if the Donald used it to toast Ivanka’s nuptials?
For over twenty years now, the house of Krug has produced the iconic Clos du Mesnil, sourcing grapes from the exclusive four acre parcel right smack in the middle of the village of Le Mesnil-Sur-Oger. The Chardonnay-exclusive Champagne fetches $900 per 750 ml bottle and is only released in [Krug’s self-declared] vintage years. I was there and enjoyed a picnic in the middle of the vineyard that is considered one of the most expensive pieces of real estate in the world: vive la France!
Better find out if Sarko likes bubbles and if he awarded the bottle la Legion d’Honneur; never mind, Carla [Bruni] will drink it, she loves it … and will tell Nicolas: Krug is it, Monsieur le President. And he will say, “Quelqu’un M’a Dit: Krug is it,” the next day at the office. Don’t get me wrong; I like Le Mesnil, but it was easy to fall in love with Ambonnay. The wine drinks phenomenally now, with good acidity, strength and elegance.
Although it is not typical to age Champagne, I would wait twenty, forty and even sixty years to sample it again. It reminds me that four years ago, Rémi Krug shared a bottle of 1945 at dinner in Reims – that was 60 years after the harvest, and the Champagne was unbelievably fresh. How is that possible? Is there a secret recipe they use to make that stuff like the folks in Atlanta with that Coca-Cola fizzy thing?
I asked that very question to the Directeur de la Maison: Olivier Krug. Guess what he said? “We make an extraordinary Champagne, Krug is the Champagne different, it all starts in the vineyard with grape selection.” He adds, “Ambonnay is the Margaux of Champagne, and you can’t get any better Pinot Noir than that.” It must be true, since the exclusive Champagne Krug Clos D’Ambonnay is the antithesis, making the bubbly beverage the traditional method. Usually, houses in that district blend several years’ harvest from a multitude of vineyards to establish consistency year after year so the bottle you buy in Peking, Parigi or Portsmouth tastes the same for your New Year’s Eve celebration, this year as it did last year, at your promotion party, at your wedding and when your parents conceived you.
Ambonnay is made from a select vineyard and is vintage-dated, with 1995 being the first release. So I uttered to my tablemates that this is like fashion, haute couture. To which Oliver quickly replied: “Mr. Gayot, Krug is above fashion!” I guess this must be the nec plus ultra then, all my Krugist friends, the King of Champagne for reigning Queens and Tsars of industry. You can always have the party in the jet sans turbulence at the hangar, now go back and check the bids on the bird.
For Champagne in all price ranges as well as Top 10 Spirits, Top 10 Wine Gifts and more Holiday Sipping, check out our Winter 2009 Wine Newsletter.
You can click on each photo to enlarge.