There are a few perks in this job. To be honest, really quite a few.
One of the best recently though was last Tuesday, hanging with Olivier Krug, sipping the latest magnificent vintage from his legendary champagne house. At 11am for goodness’ sake!
Only a week in to this column and I’m about to break one of my self-imposed rules.
While a budget of £15-£25 a bottle will provide you with tremendous drinking almost anywhere, in champagne you have to open your wallet a little wider.
I’m often asked what you get in a really expensive bottle of champagne. After all, you can buy a bottle of the standard stuff for as little as £15 in your local Aldi. Why pay 10 times that for something with a fancy name, when it fizzes in the same way and does the same job?
The truth is that the champagne ordinaire has as much in common with a wine such as Krug as a Hyundai has with a Bentley. Krug is made with exceptional and obsessive care, with the house making separate wines from each individual vineyard plot (the finest plots in all champagne), 250 in all every year, before ageing them, tasting them repeatedly and eventually blending them into something exquisite.
It is only after all this tasting and blending that the chief wine-maker, Eric Lebel will present the latest Grande Cuvée, made from as many as 120 different wines, from perhaps a dozen vintages, which has been 20 years in the making.
These are exciting times at Krug, even for a champagne house that has been making its golden wares under the same strict rules since Joseph Krug set them out when he founded the house in 1843. Last week, it launched its 2004 vintage, making it only the second time ever that it has declared a vintage three years in a row – a trilogy as it says. And, meanwhile, its latest non-vintage Grande Cuvée, the 164th edition based on the 2008 vintage, has been receiving rave reviews.
We tasted both and I was delighted to find they had all the wonderful nose and taste of toast and almonds that you expect from Krug, with real power and maturity. The 2004 vintage in particular already tasted mature and elegant, but has enough acidity to continue to improve for years to come. No wonder that M Krug was almost skipping round the room as he led the tasting.
Krug is the wine you should drink for those notable moments in your life, a wedding, a birth or a promotion. I myself can measure out some of those occasions with the memory of the oddly shaped bottle and gold label.
Krug is bought not sold, so you will need to seek it out, including the 2004 vintage, which although only released last week is allegedly almost sold out through traditional merchants fortunate enough to receive their allotment. The Grand Cuvée is more readily available, so keep a bottle in a cool dark place, waiting for that day to celebrate.
Krug, Grand Cuvée 164th edition and Krug 2004 vintage (£160 and £250, The Finest Bubble)