Writing freelance about wine hardly supplies a rich revenue stream, to use the money men’s jargon. But there are times when visiting one of the grandest names in wine makes up for all the lean moments. Such a high peak was climbed last month, when fourteen Krugistes, loyal chroniclers of the marque, gathered at the Clos du Mesnil, the most celebrated single-vineyard property in Champagne. As the cars disgorged their passengers, familiar faces emerged – Richard Juhlin from Stockholm and Tom Cannavan, Scotland’s finest. The United States was also strongly represented by a trio of fine tasters, new to me – John Gilman, author of A View from the Cellar, the respected New York newsletter; Roger Morris, a wise owl and experienced writer from Pennsylvania; and Dr Michael Apstein, a medico and subtle provocateur who finds time to pen a distinguished wine column for The Boston Globe.
I was feeling a little tense, as I’d just published an article reporting on a double vertical of Krug Vintages held in London ( December 2010) – in which I had been critical of the condition then of the Clos du Mesnil 1998. As I sipped the ’98 again in the courtyard of the Clos, I felt a sense of relief: it was showing much better in the warm bright air of June – surprisingly exuberant and à point -than on that previous freezing day the previous December. A reminder that any tasting of a wine is just a snapshot of one moment in its life, subject to changes brought by atmosphere (in every sense) and not least by the condition and mood of the taster! What followed today was a fascinating run through a decade of CdM vintages, with some glorious summits and the occasional valley, bringing home to us that where single-vineyard champagnes are concerned, Mother Nature really is in charge.
Clos du Mesnil
Vertical tasting of Clos du Mesnil, (CdM)
Le Mesnil-sur-Oger 16.vi.2011, 11.30am
The wines were, as below, in the sequence in which they were tasted:
CdM 1998 – lemon gold, good cordon of bubbles. Extrovert aromas and flavours of green, pebble- touched fruit, succulent but with fine mineral notes. However, this vintage tastes near its peak and I suggest should be drunk over the next year, overlapping the release of the 2000. Certainly the ’98 today is better than the sample tasted in December 010. ***(*) 16.5
CdM 1996 – Welsh gold, green tint, some honey (oxidative), and marked note of oak (nez). Strong bouncy acidity – a wrinkle to iron out : the high acid is still masking the fruit. Not perfectly classic but showing better than in December. *** 16+
CdM 1995 - ‘riper plots than in 1996’ – Olivier Krug. Lovely, svelte, ripe chardonnay scents – peche taking over from citrus. Fine integration of oak/acidity/terroir in balance. Perfect ripe palate – confit of fruits, citronelle, peche blanche. Acidity is quite sufficient. Superb. ***** 19
CdM 1992 - light-toned daffodil, with gold lights. Delightful floral notes interweaved with honeycombs. Tight, focused, yet ripe. Ethereal quality, very subtle and classy, very Krug in its ability to surprise. **** 18.5
CdM 1999- light, yellow gold, nice flowing chardonnay aromas but lacking something on the middle palate. **(*) 14.5
CdM 2000 - big hailstorms, tempestuous summer. Young healthy daffodil colour: épicé, expressive, potential for toasty development. Will give pleasure soon. ***(*)17