Vintage champagne isn’t my everyday tipple. On very high days, when something in the business has gone staggeringly well, we open a bottle of Krug. It’s our “taking time to smell the roses” moment. But at £125 a bottle for the multi-vintage blend Grande Cuvée and nearly £200 for the 2000 Vintage, is it worth it? Is it the very best?
I had a rare chance to answer those questions at the Champagne Academy’s post-AGM vintage tasting recently. Sixteen of the grandest marques (including Krug) setting out their current vintage to be judged against their rivals by some of the keenest palates in the fizz biz.
I don’t claim to be a champagne expert, so I kept close to Caroline Symington, a member of the Academy since 1986, wrote my notes and then checked my impressions with hers. Happily, we seemed to concur. My four stand-outs were:
Bollinger Grande Cuvée 2004 – opulent, butter brioche deliciousness and great length in which to savour it.
Charles Heidsieck Brut Millesime 2005 – a thinking woman’s champagne, a rare mix of pear, kumquat, lemon curd and smoky flavours, too complex to drink without food.
Pol Roger 2004 – true celebration champers, lighter & fresher than the two above, but a lot of fun with a glorious fine mousse.
Krug 2000 – head and shoulders above everything else. But, oddly, not a convivial drink because it’s so heart-stoppingly good, so complex, so pure it makes you wander off into a little space alone to commune with it.
So – Pol Roger or Bolly for major celebrations (which is a relief as the Bolly is already on my wine list), Charles for your most intellectual friends at a food and wine-matching extravaganza. Lobster? Scallops? And Krug for a moment you never want to forget. Because, even if what made you open the bottle slips your mind, you’ll never forget what you drank.