The Triumph of Blending Over Nature: A Review of the 2011 Krug and Grande Cuvée 167ème Edition

By | 30 March 2024

How a talented chef de cave made the most of a difficult year.


Anne Krebiehl MW

It’s a tribute to Julie Cavil’s winemaking skill that Krug’s latest releases rise above a challenging, unheralded vintage, says Anne Krebiehl MW.

As always, Krug’s chef de cave Julie Cavil is refreshingly honest. She means it when she says that to taste with her the newly released 2011 vintage and the 167th edition of the Grande Cuvée made the same year is “to enter into the intimacy of the tasting committee and to show that these are the two decisions we made.”

Making a Vintage wine in 2011 was a bold move. While other houses have done the same, this is generally a less heralded vintage and typically causes more surprise than delight. It wasn’t a particularly generous year. As Cavil describes it, 2011 was a “year cut in two, with the seasons flipped. Mrs. Cavil details the strange conditions, “I remember, we were about to pick the grapes, decided on the date, then there were four days of intense heat, then four days of torrential rainfall, with temperatures dropping below 18°C [64°F]. An unexpected rainy period caused the berries to swell and the sugar content to diminish. She remembers the series of unfortunate events from that year: “We asked our pickers to go back home for the first time. It was the first time we picked Clos d’Ambonnay and the north of the Montagne de Reims before Clos du Mesnil and the Côte des Blancs.” She affirms that “this is the true narrative of Krug 2011.” In the end, they even had to chaptalize.

Despite the adverse conditions, Pinot Noir grapes managed to hold their own. “What we observed in these conditions, and also in the tasting room”—where the Krug tasting committee assesses and scores hundreds of wines blind, so as not to be swayed by one-sided perception about provenance—“was that we had this richness; there was a lot of aromatic expression, as if all the fruits were cooked. Yet we had an incredible structure, particularly in Pinot Noir—elegance and length.”

On a similar note, for each vintage, Cavil states that the tasting committee identifies two attributes that typifies the wine. For the 2011 vintage, these attributes are tagged as “spirited roundness.” The characteristic Krug savoriness is currently overshadowed by a much heavier fruity presence than usual. Clear evidence that 2011 is a celebration of blending mastery in overcoming nature—such a feat could only be achieved by Krug. Furthermore, in confidence, I agree that this will only become more complex with time, as its breadth suggests. The blending power is equally displayed in the 167th edition of the Grande Cuvée, also hailing from 2011— a wine full of energy with a beautiful depth. 

The wines have a dosage of between 4 and 5g/l.

2011 Krug: A blend of 46% Pinot Noir, 37% Chardonnay, and 17% Meunier; disgorged after 12 years on lees.

There is a touch of apricot on the nose, followed by smokiness, a sense of creamy polenta, and toasted nigella seed. The rounded palate combines the buttery, creamy richness of crumbly shortcrust pastry with the juicy flow of ripe mirabelle, still enfolded in savory smoke, before tapering into freshness. A web of fine astringency—akin to plum-peel and Boskoop-apple tartness—contains this juiciness, makes the mouth water, and underlines the brightness of the wine. For now, fruit holds sway, but a salty undertow is most promising. The flavors echo long. | 95

Krug Grande Cuvée 167ème Edition: Created around the 2011 vintage: 58% 2011, 42% reserve wines; 47% Pinot Noir, 36% Chardonnay, 17% Meunier; 191 different wines from 13 years, going back to 1995

On the nose, one can pick up aroma of toasted sesame, grilled rye bread, and salty cracker. These textures are accompanied by a touch of seashell and lilac based on a creamy base. The palate is satisfyingly fresh, carrying forward the smoky, reductive toastiness encapsulating the wine, while the finest creamy bubbles transport freshness, saltiness, and chalky depth, adding layers of complexity due to a fantastic streak of acidity. A potent wine with commendable drive: powerful, strong, and impressively toned. | 95

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