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In January, Krug National Brand Director Dorothy Bakker visited Baltimore in advance of the much-anticipated release of the Champagne house's new vintage. But Bakker was in town to do more than just pour bubbly and hobnob with the local beverage elite. Charm City was her latest stop on a tour she has undertaken to spread the word that champagne should be regarded as so much more than just a special-occasion drink one has on New Year's Eve or after a best man's toast.
"Champagne is actually a great and incredibly personable wine," she declared, during a special luncheon at the Capital Grille's Inner Harbor location. "It's no longer just something with bubbles for weddings or for toasting someone's retirement. At Krug, we want champagne to be more than just a compulsory thing. I think you can have it every day whether it's with a good burger and French fries or with a richer pairing like Parmesan Reggiano."
And, indeed, as she poured Krug's newly released 2000 vintage and then the Krug Grand Cuvee, she demonstrated how the flavors of each indeed danced off the various menu items those assembled had ordered -- everything from the restaurant's signature mini-tenderloin sandwiches to its Maine Lobster Pot Pie.
"Our champagne is the expression of a year, a story told by Krug," she stated. "We produce a vintage only when there is an interesting story, when there is something unique in that year that we'd like to capture. Right now, we're having the Vintage 2000, which is an expression of the year 2000. The harvest of that year was very stormy. In July, there were hailstorms and there was some damage in the vineyards. However, because of Krug's plot-by-plot selection process, we were able to go parcel by parcel. We would never just take fields of grapes and crush them all together."
She continued, "Our other champagne we're having today is the Krug Grand Cuvee, a non-vintage champagne. It's a blend of many different years." In fact, according to the press materials, Krug's Grand Cuvee is a blend of some 120 reserve wines from 10 different vintages, some of which may reach up to 15 years of age. To create its Cuvees and preserve the brand's style year after year, Krug meticulously chooses some 250 plots of vines out of the approximately 270,000 listed in France's Champagne region.
"With Krug," Bakker noted, "you have fullness and finesse. There is a great backbone of acidity, and the exceptional amount of aging really opens up the champagne quite nicely. The House was founded in 1843, and there have been six generations of the Krug family. So, there is a direct lineage. The fifth and sixth generation are alive today. The fifth generation is Remy Krug, and the sixth generation is Olivier Krug."
But even with such a long and rich history, the House of Krug has made strides in bringing its brand into the 21st century. Since the summer of 2011, for instance, all bottles of Krug Champagne feature a KRUG ID located on the label. The six-digit number serves as a reference for wine collectors and a portal to further information about that particular bottle.
In addition to pushing the notion that champagne can be an every-occasion, even every-day drink, Bakker also stressed the importance of consumers moving beyond the traditional tall, thin flutes as the glass of choice for champagne and instead pour the beverage into bigger and more all-purpose glasses that will take the consumer through an entire meal.
"Champagne should be in a glass big enough that it allows you to roll it around in order to swirl the aromas," she declared. "You want to be able to get your nose in the glass, which you can't do with most flutes where your nose is hanging over. You can't quite engage it. Inside the glass is where all of the wonderful interaction happens. You pick up on a lot of properties with your nose and less properties on the palette. So, it's very important to get that nose in the glass to be able to taste right. Champagne is a very visual drink with the bubbles. You want to be able to enjoy them. I think, as time goes on, the American wine culture will continue to evolve. So, if you say this glass is going to provide you with a better tasting experience, most people will be all for it!"