Champagne Krug is about to release the most expensive Champagne ever. Its Brut Blanc de Noirs Clos d’Ambonnay 1995 has a suggested retail price of $3,000 to $3,500.
In January, I made my regular visit to Burgundy. On my way back to Paris, I stopped in Champagne to visit Olivier Krug, Henri’s son and now the director of the house, and to learn more about the project. We drove to Ambonnay, where Krug has a winery next to the Clos, devoted solely to the production of the new Champagne.
|Krug's Clos d'Ambonnay vineyard in the village of Ambonnay is 1.7 acres, planted to Pinot Noir.|
Krug kept this new wine a secret for fifteen years. Henri and Rémi Krug wanted to bottle a second vineyard-designated Champagne to accompany its successful Clos du Mesnil, a single vineyard blanc de blancs. Krug began purchasing grapes from the Clos d’Ambonnay in 1990. In 1994, satisfied by the quality, the brothers bought the vineyard.
Located in the village of Ambonnay, at the base of the Montagne de Reims about 45 minutes southeast of Krug’s headquarters in Reims, the 1.7-acre clos is roughly one-third the size of the 4.6-acre Clos du Mesnil. It was planted 100 percent to Pinot Noir in 1984, 1985 and 1987, making the average age about 10 years in the 1995.
“The quality of the wine has a lot to do with the soil, the terroir and how we conduct the vinification,” explained Krug, as we strolled through the vineyard. He was referring to the first fermentation in oak casks, which is one of the pillars of the Krug style.
The debut Clos d’Ambonnay 1995 was magnificent.
|One of the pillars of the Krug style is fermentation in cask.|
Full of spice, cigar box, and leather aromas and flavors, it’s firm and precise, intensely flavored and very fresh. With a little air, caramel and vanilla notes emerged, and the aftertaste was long and smoky. If Krug’s Clos du Mesnil is a breath of spring air, this is its autumn counterpart, full of rich, golden tones, a summer’s bounty reaching full maturity. I scored it 97 points, non-blind.
The price, however, is pure fantasy. I’ve seen it offered for $3,500. It’s not three times better than the Clos du Mesnil 1996 (96, $1,127), nor is it ten times better than Krug’s brilliant 1996 (99, $363).
It does make a statement, setting a new standard in the price of luxury Champagne. And for Krug and parent company LVMH, the timing couldn’t be better. Worldwide demand for bubbly is strong, with supply pretty much static.
“What we are trying to create is a reference for the region,” said Krug’s president and CEO Panos Sarantopoulos. “It’s not to be exclusive, but to respect the passion, energy and friendship that went into creating this.”
Yet it is exclusive, with only 250 cases available worldwide (compared with 750 for Clos du Mesnil). Krug released 800 bottles last October for “friends” of Krug. Some have already found their way to auction, where a few have sold for more than $4,000 per bottle. So maybe the price isn’t fantasy after all?