In my last blog, I wrote about the release of two vintage Champagnes from the 1996 vintage. While most houses have moved on to more recent vintages, there are a few houses whose cuvées demand extra time on the lees. One of those is Krug, which is also releasing its 1996 Brut, after 10 years on the lees.
Olivier Krug, who took over as director of the house in 2006, was in New York to launch the new vintage bubbly. We tasted it together, along the Grande Cuvée, over lunch at The Modern.
It combines the inimitable Krug style with the character of the vintage. Born of base wines fermented in oak casks, I always find great depth and complexity in the aromas of a vintage Krug wine. The ’96 is intense, with whole grain toast and roasted nut aromas. Very Krug.
Yet on the palate, it’s very 1996. The vintage produced a rare marriage of grapes with both high sugars and high acidity. As a result, the Krug sports a firm backbone of acidity, with plenty of citrus notes and a hint of the biscuity note that will emerge more with age.
“It’s a year where a good house or a good winemaker will make a good wine,” said Krug. “It’s a tricky vintage.”
I had heard similar comments from other growers and chefs de caves that some vintners did not know how to interpret these components in the grapes and did not make a vintage bottling, while others did not achieve balance in their cuvées and some wines are already clumsy and tired.
Thinking about the 1996 vintage in Champagne brings up the comparison with its predecessor, 1995. These were the last two great vintages in Champagne since the 1988, 1989 and 1990 trio.
The 1995s have richness and generosity, but they are also very well balanced. It’s a vintage that reminds me of 1988, with less structure and more flesh.
The 1996s are powerful wines. The best have this combination of weight from the ripeness and tension from the acidity. This gives the wines interest and complexity and will allow them to age.
More houses appear to have made wines from 1995 than from 1996. To date, I have reviewed 216 from that year, compared with 144 from 1996. Percentage-wise, this works out to 60 percent 1995 and 40 percent 1996.
The number of Champagnes with "classic" ratings (95 to 100 points) was slightly higher in 1996, but when rounded up or down, they're the same. However, in the "outstanding" category (90 to 94 points), ’96 outpaced its predecessor with 70 percent to 1995's 49 percent.
Where I was able to make comparisons between the two vintages for the same cuvées (56 wines), I found that I preferred 1996, with a margin of more than 2-to-1. In most cases the differential was a point, or two. And there were eight ties.
Ultimately, I rate the 1996 vintage slightly higher (95 vs. 94). Perhaps it’s a question of style; both years yielded some great wines. I am curious to know if you have any preference for one vintage over the other?
Brian Loring — Lompoc, CA — April 25, 2007 7:04pm ET
Colin Haggerty — La Jolla, California — April 25, 2007 10:07pm ET
Matthew Habdas — connecticut — April 25, 2007 11:33pm ET
Bruce Sanderson — New York — April 26, 2007 9:33am ET
Matthew Habdas — connecticut — April 26, 2007 10:58am ET
Bruce Sanderson — New York — April 26, 2007 11:55am ET
Russell Mccandless — Minnesota USA — April 26, 2007 1:51pm ET
Lorenzo Erlic — victoria canada — April 26, 2007 11:25pm ET
Sherry Padgett — Stanford, CA — April 27, 2007 10:03am ET
Bruce Sanderson — New York — April 27, 2007 10:09am ET
Russell Mccandless — Minnesota USA — April 27, 2007 2:12pm ET
Marissa Ocasio — Connecticut — April 27, 2007 4:55pm ET
Anacleto Ludovic — paris france — April 27, 2007 6:19pm ET
Brian Greenglass — Toronto, Canada — April 28, 2007 10:33pm ET
Stephen Henneberry — Barcelona, Spain — April 29, 2007 6:07am ET
Bruce Sanderson — New York — May 1, 2007 9:17am ET
Bruce Sanderson — New York — May 1, 2007 9:40am ET
Anacleto Ludovic — paris france — May 2, 2007 9:43am ET
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Domenico Musone — Buenos Aires, Argentina — June 11, 2007 9:44am ET
Bruce Sanderson — New York — July 16, 2007 3:03pm ET
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