James shares some fascinating insights into two of the world’s most coveted names in Champagne – one of which he awarded a 99-point score.
If – as I believe to be the case – Krug is the king of Champagne, Dom Perignon is the queen. Preference for one or the other is strictly a matter of style, not quality. So they can (and do) flourish under the same corporate owner, Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy, LVMH for short.
From this point on differences, not similarities, abound. Dom Perignon has by some distance the greatest brand recognition, with sales measured in millions (the number is officially a secret, but the best informed suggest 3.5 to 5 million bottles). The cost of production is anyone's guess, as are sales and marketing expenses, but you are quickly rising from at a bare minimum net earnings of $350 million.
When you add the extra margin of rosé and the late-disgorged wines, the figures swell yet again. Formerly called Oenotheque, they are now called P1, P2 and P3. P1 is for the current release (typically 10 years old) and its key characteristics are elegance and harmony; P2 (16 to 18 years old) is all about energy and intensity, and P3 (25 years old) tertiary complexity.
There is no such thing as a non-vintage Dom, but when you cross over to Krug, their non-vintage Grande Cuvee is the raison d'être of its (unofficial) 600,000-bottle production. Founder Joseph Krug declared: “God makes a vintage, I make Grande Cuvee.”
Each year a new Grande Cuvee is created and given an edition number, the current release 163e (in other words, with an unbroken lineage of 163 yearly blends). Each bottle has a unique number that reveals its exact history (via the Krug app). This edition has 183 batches of wine from 12 vintages, the oldest 1990, the youngest (its base year) 2007, disgorged in winter 2015-16.
The 2002 Krug, 40 per cent pinot noir, 39 per cent chardonnay and 21 per cent pinot meunier, spent 12 years on tirage. It was a great vintage and this magnificent wine does it full justice. Properly cellared, its future will be measured in decades, not years. Long live the King.
1998 Dom Perignon P2
Disgorged in 2010, held in the cellars for further development. Light gold colour, this is a quite beautiful wine, with intense, complex brioche and stone fruit flavours draped on a spinal chord of bright acidity. Headed to creamy/buttery notes as it matures into the P3 stage of the next five-plus years.
RRP $599 | 2028
2002 Krug Brut
Golden yellow; a spectacularly expressive bouquet with brioche, wild-flower honey and spice, the palate building layer-upon-layer of fruits of all kinds on a foundation of Krug acidity, so important in giving the lavish flavours an aura of brightness.
$499 | 2032
NV Krug Grande Cuvee 163e Edition
Quite simply the greatest non-vintage champagne of all, soaring on a magic carpet of grilled nuts, nougat, white flowers and dried fruits, then finishes dramatically with the extreme drive and intensity of its citrus/grapefruit-accented acidity providing balance and immense length.
$279 | 2037
Next article: Starting at $80, James names his top 12 Champagnes of the year.