$514.39; 12% alcohol; cork; 97++ points
This could be the best drink of my life. Two weeks ago, it invaded me more than seduced. Just took over. Still it haunts me, freshly, as if the King had just now walked out of the room. Having pushed aside the long-stored mental records of many other magnificent wines, it sits glowering in my memory like a heavenly cloud. And not only the gastronomic part of my brain’s library: this liquor took over many other sections, spilling into the history shelves, the music sector, the colour charts. It dumbfounded the language files completely. I couldn’t talk.
When it was poured, its miasma was not content to merely spill across the table as other vinous rarities sometimes do. This thing occupied the building.
After half an hour of marveling at its bouquet, I murmured “It doesn’t even smell like wine.”
You know how Tasmanian Leatherwood honey has a dark perfumed richness about it, setting it well aside from all other honey? You should think like that of this wine: it immediately brought Leatherwood to mind, but it doesn’t really smell like that. It smells like a master has poached ripe Passe-Crassane pears in it and served them warm on a toasty brioche floating in perfect sabayon. This Normandy pear is a delicious, granular cross of a pear and a quince. So the bouquet is deeper, more autumnal and complex than simple crunchy pear. Then there’s that basement of alluring, mysterious spice: some scorched Curaçao orange peel, for example. Maybe mace, maybe nutmeg, maybe cinnamon, maybe allspice, maybe roast stringy bark. Which brings me back to the Leatherwood. And we already know it doesn’t really smell like that: all these insinuations and innuendos have been melted and forged into the one perfectly smooth golden ingot.
When eventually I remembered it was actually a drink I had in my hand, and I took a draught, I lost my voice again. It sure does taste like wine, but wine crossed with cinder toffee and burnished gold. It rang my receptors like a carillon.
Everything else is gonna be a letdown.
2000 was really a shit of a year in Champagne, a chaotic juggernaut that commenced with too much mildew-promoting rain then savage hailstorms in July. But what the hail hadn’t blitzed – like 3,000 ha: one tenth of the appellation – was generous to the point of corpulent after all that water. August brought a see-saw of further downpours, interspersed with hot sunshine. Then, in mid-September, just before harvest, there was a burst of record heat. That big crop made possible some very careful fruit selection for the fussiest producers, who finally enjoyed a calm, drawn-out harvest in a beautiful Indian summer.
They were still picking clean Côte des Blancs Chardonnay well into October, which may begin to explain why Krug winemaker Julie Cavil employed a little more of it than usual – the blend is 43% Chardonnay, 42% Pinot noir and 15% Pinot meunier.
Over the years of considering the wine’s intricate composition before assemblage, the Krugs ended up calling this astonishment their Gourmandise Orageuse - Stormy Indulgence.
“This vintage brings together the complexity and the generosity of a very exciting year,” Olivier Krug understates on the family website. “Krug 2000 is one of the most intense, dramatic and romantic Krug Vintages ever made. It also has a very high ageing potential.”
Nobody would know better. The wine certainly has sufficient acidity to keep all that opulence and extravagance in harmonious balance, and given the Krugs’ longstanding philosophy of maximum oxidation until bottling, we can be assured there’ll be no more of that occurring as this mighty dream of a drink smoulders on for decades, corks willing.
And the bead? That lazy, persistent stream of the tiniest bubbles that can make Krug identifiable on sight alone? Again, just perfect. Which reminds me of Henri Krug drily remarking on one of my visits to that gracious, understated but totally authoritative maison, “Why are they so small? I leave that to our technical people, Philip. Just let me say I have spent many years counting them.”
These are the sort of bubbles I could easily spend the rest of my life counting. I’ll have to sell the Veyron.
Back in the day: brothers Henri and Remi Krug, planning assemblage