Olivier Krug was in New York last week and invited me for a preview taste of the new 1998 vintage Brut Champagne. It will be released in a few months, likely hitting retail shelves and restaurants by September with a retail price of $290.
“ was an interesting year,” said Krug, fresh off his Paris flight. “I found out August was the warmest since 1961. I think we reached 40 Celsius and had some grillage, where the grapes and leaves were actually burnt.”
It was also a large harvest, with the final yield reaching the maximum 10,400 kilograms of grapes per hectare, plus an additional 2,500 kilograms per hectare (according to the Comité Interprofessionel du Vin de Champagne) for blocage, grapes that are allowed to be fermented and stored as reserves for a year when yields are particularly low.
The weather was good for the harvest and Krug began picking the third week of September. “It shows we can have quality and quantity in Champagne at the same time, like we did in 1982,” mused Krug.
No vintage Champagnes were made in 1997 or 1999. “’98 is the fourth vintage we made in the ’90s, so it’s a small decade for Krug, but all good vintages.”
The Champagne itself is very elegant, with depth and richness to the toast, honey and citrus aromas and flavors. It’s defined by vibrant acidity and a refined texture, the hallmarks of Krug. The lingering finish echoes ginger and toast notes.
It’s very Krug. That is to say that it reflects the Krug style more than the imprint of the vintage. I found it more like the 1995 in this respect; the ’96, on the other hand, was very much marked by the character of the year.
Olivier Krug likens it to a style between 1995 and 1989. “It has the straightforward character of the ’95 and the honeyed richness of ’89,” he reflected.
Krug typically draws on vineyard parcels from 15 to 20 villages for its Brut vintage. What’s unusual about the 1998 is that the proportion of Chardonnay is higher than the two Pinots. Then again, 1998 was a good year for Chardonnay.
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