It is Sunday and our time in Champagne has come to an end. I am currently sitting on one of the only trains going from Reims to Paris today. The strikes are hitting the rail road hard, but we were lucky enough to secure seats. Soon we will see how the capital of France is coping with the upcoming events and a flooding Seine. I must say I was a bit worried before the trip about all the fuss, but being here everything has just fallen in place. And of course, bad weather and transport issues meant significantly less tourists. Continue reading “Wineweek 82: A Postcard From Champagne”
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.
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.
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.
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.