How to Spend it: Krug Grande Cuvée Brut

When talking about Champagnes, there are a few names that stand out and one of the is Krug. This producer falls in the same curiosity category as Selosse: I can’t afford to have it that often but I am dying to try it when I have the change. Up to now I have tasted their Grande Cuvée and the Vintage 1998 and been blown away each time. With Krug however I hold the same suspicions as with other above 100€ wines, is it really worth (to me) five or ten times more than a good grower champagne or even a premium Cava and how much is the price inflated by the famous name? I don’t want to pay for the name, I want to pay for the experience. With Krug the prices range from around 125€ for the Grande Cuvée and upwards probably to the stars for a vintage Clos du Mesnil (Krug’s grower selection from their famous single lot of Chardonnay in the Grand Cru village of Mesnil-sur-Oger)

Over Christmas we opened a bottle of Grande Cuvée that we had lying around. It was not for storing and we thought it could hold its own with the heavy Christmas food (and I wanted to drink it). I could see my mother being very uncomfortable when I told her what the bottle cost, but if anything, a Krug is worth sharing with the ones you love.

The bottle has an elegant design and always comes in a nice box. I think it is actually a great wedding or (upscale) birthday gift. Even better if you promise to store it for the lucky boy/girl to make sure it is not accidentally consumed between 2-4am in the night at that after party where you are just going to open one more bottle. The color is golden with a persistent stream of bubbles promising a fresh and crisp “first bite”.

The nose of the wine is of chocolate and nougat, and the taste toasty with honey and nuts. Not very fruity. This is a powerful and full Champagne with a lot of character. It’s unlike any other Champagne I have tasted, so I am not surprised that Krug has inspired so many wine enthusiasts around the world.

Pure quality-wise the Krug Grande Cuvée gets a 4.5 rating and value for money is to my opinion a 3. When it comes to the price, I just think I can get something I personally like almost as much for a third or fourth of the price. Take for example the Charlemagne Vintage 2008 (review here), I am very fond of that one and it cost closer to 40€ rather than 125€. However, as always, taste is taste, and people find different things in each wine. I am and will continue to be very curious about Krugs vintages. It would be wonderful to taste a -96 or a -90. Perhaps someday I will.

Like a Kid in a Candy Store – Hedonism Wines London

Hedonism Wines is like a candy store for wine lovers. It is a lovely place to browse for wines as it has one of the most extensive selections of high end wines and big name brands I have ever seen. With a central location (in Mayfair) I often end up at Hedonism browsing around the shelves and crossing my fingers I win the lottery. The atmosphere is great for getting in the mood for wine and staff are friendly (although level of knowledge varies greatly depending on who is working). They also have a decent selection of other liquor, some wine books and glasses. All in all, its a beutiful store.

So why do I conclude that its only mediocre? For me it is the fact that regardless of the great selection I seldom find anything to buy. That largely comes down to two reasons: first the selection is extensive but to some extent fairly boring is at is the big names that dominate here and I am often searching for smaller producers (that is just not the focus of Hedonism). Nothing wrong with that but in combination with a “ridiculous” price level it just does not make it my place to buy. Hedonism is often substantially more expensive than other shops and I am often ready to go the extra mile to find a good deal. I have seen cases where Hedonism charges up to double that of what others have on the price tag, but more normal is around 20-50% more. One can always argue that a nice location and large selection is not cheap to maintain, but we are living the era of internet buying and home delivery, a nice shop is an unnecessary extra for me. For the really high end stuff (stuff for a few £1000s) they are however more competitive so it seems they try to have higher margins on their ‘cheaper’ (thinking of the wines costing £50 and up to a few £100).

Regardless of the price level I still think Hedonism Wines is a place well worth wisiting. If you are interested in some high-end Champagnes, they have a room with a nice collection of for example vintage bottles of Krug, Bollinger and Dom Perignon. Perhaps not something I can afford (or at least willing to spend the sums required) at the moment, but still nice to have a look at.

Wine Review: Jacques Selosse Initial Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs Brut

So here is my first review on the How to spend it -section: Jacques Selosse Initial Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs Brut. I am often very torn with wines and Champagnes that cost over 100 € a bottle. Yes, I buy them sometimes for curiosity’s sake . However, I am not completely sure if they are worth the money. If we take the Krug Grande Cuvee for example, its a wonderful Champagne. But is it that much better in proportion than a good standard Champagne like the Francois Bedel, one of my favorite Champagnes in the 30 euro section? I think that the Krug is better, definitely, but is it really four times better, which would be in line with the price difference? This is just my thinking around the price of wines, but of course I know that it’s not how the world of supply and demand works. Taste is taste and a price of a Champagne is not 100% in line with quality or the cost of production. Price is mostly (but not completely) determined on how much consumers are willing to pay for it.

Back to the Selosse. The winemaker Anselme Selosse has a bit of a cult status. He divides opinions like many charismatic characters. His wines start from around 100 € a bottle and vintages of course have a heavier price tag. When looking at the more expensive vintages, they do not however climb up to the price levels of a Vielles Vignes Francais or Krug Clos du Mensil, but are considered by some critics to be of equal quality, thus great value for money. There are however numerous experts who also find his wines, if not awful at least poor so be aware that opinions differ on the topic of his brilliance (or lack thereof). So before splurging 100 € or more consider whether you believe you will like it. We started with the Selosse Initial because, well, we could get or hands on it, and as its name suggests, it is a good starting point to get acquainted with the Selosse style.

The wine is quite light colored with small bubbles. The nose is brioche-like with marzipan and almonds. One can also get some peach, citrus, honey, yellow apples and minerals. There is a lot going on in this wine. The taste is much fuller than many other champagnes with some acidity and notes of apples and citrus fruit. There is an interesting slight bitterness in the aftertaste that gets stronger when the wine warms up. If one can say a wine is complex, this is it. Its not just cold dry and sparkling, it has a lot of character. It reminds me of the Horiot Champagnes that are like great regular wines, just with bubbles and both producers seem to have a similar philosophy, they do whatever they want (not what is expected). One tip for drinking it though. Pour a small glass at a time and keep the wine cool in the fridge. When it warms up you get a bit of an overwhelming zesty lemon bitterness that is not as pleasant as of you would have kept the wine chilled.

Ok, I am sold. The Selosse Initial is a very, very good Champagne. I would recommend pairing it with some food, not sure what exactly, but light meats and seafood would be a good start. The quality of the wine definitely gets a 4.5. I have not gotten over my dilemma yet regarding the price vs quality ratio. Perhaps I will over time. I would say the drop is minor though and the value for money rating is a 4. One thing to consider as well before getting carried away with Selosse purchases. Anselme Selosse has mentioned in several interviews that he wants to make wines coherent to what each year has to offer, not a product that tastes the same from year to year. To me this keeps things interesting, but it also means that quality will vary. This is just good to know for managing expectations. Anyway, I am now amongst the fans and very happy to have another bottle in the fridge and that’s already a sunk cost so no point worrying about the price of it.

Wineweek 8

The time has finally come, our trip to Asia is just one day away. This trip was booked a long time ago, so it feels a bit surreal that in 48 hours we will be in +30 degrees (Celsius). It will be a five week journey staring from Bangkok and ending in Singapore. As I mentioned earlier, it will perhaps not be the most wine-rich month of our lives; but food-wise I have high expectations. The ambition is to find a lot of good street food, but we have also been reading a lot about a rising coffee scene both in Thailand and Singapore. So the blog will probably be filled with reviews and pictures of food-stalls, bars and cafes; and the occasional annoying picture of the sun and beach of course.

Some other exciting news to share with you: the blog will be getting a new voice to share experiences on wine and food with you. M, my lovely husband, has also raised an interest in writing and will be publishing some of his reviews in The Winecurious. An active Yelper, M has been the initial inspiration for all this public sharing. We spend hours surfing online for bars, restaurants and other interesting places in our home city and whenever we travel. That’s how we find most of the great places, so it is a pleasure to share onward.  M will be writing his own introduction, so I will not get too much into this. But the addition of a new writer means that we will be able to include more content and also another point of view. Perhaps impossible to imagine, but we don’t always agree (wink wink).

Wineweek is also about recapping the activities of the past week, so here is a quick glimpse to the past. As it was a busy week preparing for the upcoming trip, we did not have the appetite to cook much at home. We had some great value for money burgers at Rhino, two for the price of one in January (using a FB offer). Egg, bacon and truffle mayo burger, there is no way that can taste bad, and it didn’t. On Friday we opened one of the Cuvée Guy Charlemagne Vintage 2008s that I got (a box of) as a Christmas present. It was really wonderful, and I can’t wait to share a review with you. Many of the 2008 vintage Champagnes that have been released, have been already now very drinkable. A friend of mine, Iisa, who is a Sommelier, calls 2008 the fruit-year, and I can only agree. She also mentioned that some of her renowned wine-contacts say it might even be a better year than 2002. So stock up now, when the price for 2008 is still reasonable. I know, it’s a gamble, all wine does not mature as expected. But that is perhaps the fun of it. Some people play poker to get their kicks, I buy wine.

On Saturday, we went browsing around in the Monopoly. The branch on Regeringsgatan in the center of Stockholm is a real treat to visit. Sometimes I just go in and browse. This time we did find something interesting to buy though. There was something on the shelf that caught M’s eye. And now I am not talking about the Gramona that is in the picture above (that’s also a great new addition to the selection). We found two bottles of Jaques Selosse Brut Initial, this is not always in the assortment so we just had to go for it. This is a producer that divides a lot of opinions, also among critics.  Some say it is wonderful, and some say it is really not worth the money. When we lived in London a bottle of a basic non vintage Selosse cost closer to 120 pounds (cheapest I have seen was £108 but norm is more so for example Berry Bros & Rudd charge £126). That’s as much as a Krug Grande Cuvée; but now it was available at the Monopoly for under 900 SEK (with the current exchange rate ~70£). It is not like I buy a wine this expensive every week, but I am curious to try it – to see what the fuss is all about. So we quickly picked up the two last bottles and made our way to the counter. We tried the wine last night, and yes it was something else. I will write a proper review about it later; but I must say it stood out in a nice way. Whether I think it’s value for money, well that is another question. But purely from quality perspective – Yes, I get what all the fuss is about now.

Saturday evening we had a wonderful early dinner at Matkonsulatet (you can read an older review here). As we were trying some Champagne later that night, we decided to go easy on the drinks. The Estrella Inedit was a wonderful choice. I like the 0.75l bottle that you can share with friends. The beer is very light but still flavorful, with a subtle fizz. Perfect with food or on hot summer nights. Kind-of reminds me of some of the Asian beers, but this one has more flavor in it and no bitterness what so ever. For food we got to try some wonderful new things: Beef tartar with oyster ice cream, another tartar with foie gras flakes and black truffle, and pork burger pinchos. They were all wonderful! Especially the burger, but it was so greasy (just the way I like it) that it was actually good that we only got half burgers. I was stuffed after the meal.

That was it for Wineweek no 8. Next time I will be writing this post, it will be from Bangkok. Meanwhile enjoy the reviews and random rambling I have scheduled for the coming week.

Wineweek 6

The last Wineweek of the year! A recap of Christmas week: Great food, wine and of course visiting friends and relatives; and some thoughts about 2015.

This year Christmas was a bit different. We have traditionally traveled away combining the holidays with some weeks of saved-up summer vacation days. Last year we spent three weeks in Hawaii and the year before we were in California. As we are travelling away in January “this year” (technically next year), Christmas was planned to take place here in Sweden. So my family traveled from Helsinki and London to stay with us. It was wonderful, but hectic. I am happy to wait a year to do it again. When Friday finally came, M and I sat on the sofa and thought how wonderful it was that the house was quiet.

So what did we actually do this week? Perhaps most interesting is to discuss what we drank (and ate) on Christmas eve. It was not an easy decision choosing the festive drinks with so many great bubblies in the fridge after the Winecalendar. After some contemplation we opted for the Krug Grande Cuvee. The house of Krug produces very powerful Champagnes with notes of nuts and caramel. A perfect choice for days of celebration. They are heavy on the wallet, but worth trying. For Christmas dinner we went for some Italian red from LaVis and a non-alcoholic Cider from La Ribaude. As a companion to the wines we made a roast with vegetables, boiled potatoes and a fig salad. Not a traditional Christmas meal, but it was our choice as we hosted the event.

What about presents then? What kind of stuff did Santa bring the Winecurious? I don’t know if I have been such a good girl this year, but I sure did get some great presents. There was a few great wine-books: Christie’s Encyclopedia of Champagne & Sparkling Wine revised and expanded by one of my favorite wine-personalities from Finland, Essi Avellan MW (Master of Wine) and the 7th edition of the World Atlas of Wine. M also got a great hamburger cooking book. Mmmm, looking forward to him making those burgers. To my surprise, there was room left in the fridge(s) for some more bubbly (even after the Winecalendar), so Santa got me a box of Cuvee Charlemagne  2008 for my long term storage. I also got a great new tea brewer with a convenient mechanism for keeping the tea pot warm for a second serving. These presents should keep me busy (and drinking) for a while.

We also tried a few other great wines this weekend. Two cavas we brought home from Cavatast last October: Vilarnau Gran Reserva Vintage 2010 and Guillem Carol Millenium Gran Reserva 2005. Both interesting and worth taking some time to write a review. And an Italian red, Gran Verosso Gold Edition. Otherwise we have been enjoying coffee moments and long walks in the winter weather. Here in (our part of) Sweden the first real snow started falling on Christmas day.

What is there to come then in 2015? Well, a lot of course! Our Swedish VAT number has arrived,so we are only short one more registration to start real business. Exciting! We will also do some traveling to old and new wine-countries for seeking out new producers. And we will work on growing our blog with new interesting posts, tips and reviews. But perhaps 2015 is too big to really capture in one post, so I will tell a little about the coming weeks. Next week, we will be travelling to London for touring some wine-shops and spending New Years eve at one of our favorite London Restaurants: Kitchen Table. And in two weeks we will finally head of for our long vacation in Asia, touring in Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore. It might be a period of fewer reviews on wine, but I suspect there will be some great stuff coming up on restaurants, cocktail bars and other culinary experiences. We read up that the coffee culture is really starting to boom in Bangkok, so that will be interesting to check out. Maybe there will be some posts on wine. I know there are some nice shops in Singapore where we end our journey. After three weeks on a “wineless-diet” I am sure I will be anxious to seek them out.

Midnight Cocktails at Tweed

In the past two years, I have visited my fair share of restaurants. Yes, I married a foodie and became one myself. Perhaps I always had it in me (the love of eating), but my food personality really bloomed when starting to date M. We lived in London at that time, so there was plenty of stomping ground. We were out several times a week in restaurants and bars, it was like Disneyland for foodies.

Well, that hasn’t really changed after the move to Stockholm, perhaps a little bit. What I have missed though is a decent selection of wine and cocktail bars. Alcohol taxes here are high, so it isn’t that easy to make a profit from just selling drinks. Mostly I feel bars here are for beer-drinkers, and now I’m not talking about the micro-brewery, beer enthusiast kind of places. A majority of bars have a philosophy of more is more and the price of a pint plays a bigger role than the selection. Well this is fine, if that’s what the majority wants, then that’s what the majority should have, right?

Anyway, Tweed is one of those rare places where a wine (and cocktail) curious like me, can go to enjoy a good selection of drinks and bubbly by the glass (or rather half-bottle). Located in the Old Town, it is hidden away from the street in the upstairs of the Collector’s Victory Hotel. Not a secret bar as such, but you need to know that it’s there to be able to wander in. The interior has an old-library fell with some quirky old figureheads from boats, and of course tweed tapestry. It is crowded in its own way as it is popular, but never feels quite full. It’s the bulky Chesterfield sofas that take a lot of space that leave enough breathing space to the people standing. Music is also not very loud, so you can actually hear the person sitting next to you. A comfortable bar, as it is advertised! Although the absence of windows does bother me now that I think about it.

So what is on the drinks-list then? There is a large range of wines by the glass from the classic wine districts, craft beer from far and wide, classic cocktails and digestive-spirits. In addition to this, Tweed shares a large wine cellar with Djuret and Burgundy, other restaurants (by the same owner) located in the building. They say they hold around 1600 different wines focusing on the classic wine regions and countries. What I noticed was the large selection of bubbly by half bottle. That’s almost better than by the glass if you are sharing, as you get a freshly opened bottle. This time, I had a classic cocktail though, as it felt more appropriate after a bubbly start for the evening and wines at a restaurant before; and my companions had some beers and Äppelmust (type of Apple juice). One couldn’t really call it as relaxing as it was Saturday night, but after some waiting we did get a table. Price-wise, well, its not the cheapest bar in town. I wouldn’t call it a rip-off, you pay for the comfortable space and good bartending, but perhaps I wouldn’t make a nest there and start calling it my local, as it can be a bit heavy on the wallet. Worth a visit though! Especially if you have an occasion to pop open a (half) bottle of bubbly.