Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Krug Clos d’Ambonnay

This month, Champagne Krug is officially releasing the 1995 Clos d’Ambonnay, the first new wine from Krug since the Rosé was created in 1983. Intended to be a pinot noir counterpart to their single-vineyard blanc de blancs from the Clos du Mesnil, the Clos d’Ambonnay comes from a small, entirely walled vineyard located on the edge of the village itself, just off of the road to Bouzy. Krug has owned the vineyard since the end of 1994, although prior to that they had been purchasing its fruit and including it in their blends.

Today I was invited by Krug to visit the Clos and taste its exclusive wine, which, needless to say, was a tremendously exciting opportunity. The first thing that strikes you about the Clos is, indeed, how small it is. At only 0.685 hectares, it’s only about a third of the size of Clos du Mesnil (or to put it in a different perspective, it’s also just over a third of the size of Romanée-Conti), making the Clos d’Ambonnay the rarest of Krug’s wines by far.

I’ll have more to say about the Clos in the future, but for now, I’ll describe the 1995 Krug Clos d’Ambonnay as a wine possessing both richness and subtlety. It’s a wine of terroir, but at the same time it’s impossible to separate the signature of terroir from the signature of the house: from the first aromas of the nose it’s immediately evident that this is a Krug wine. While it has the amplitude and depth expected of Ambonnay, it also demonstrates a startling finesse and elegance for a wine made from pure pinot noir, building unhurriedly on the palate with a nuanced and aristocratic presence. There’s a quiet but intense core of concentrated fruit flavor, hinting at fresh, primary notes of blackberry and cassis under a veil of lightly toasty, autolytic nuttiness. With air, the fruit aromas turn darker and become more pronounced on the nose, while the finish expands with regal presence and dimension, staining the palate in its firm and impeccably refined depth of flavor. Compared to the 1995 Krug Vintage, this is a less complex wine yet it shows a similar sense of grip and intensity on the palate, and I daresay that the Clos d’Ambonnay possesses an even greater finesse, despite the Vintage’s sizable proportion of chardonnay.

There are only 3,000 bottles of Krug Clos d’Ambonnay available for the world, and unfortunately its price (as of yet unreleased) will certainly make it prohibitive to the majority of champagne consumers. I consider myself very fortunate indeed to be among the few to have tasted it.

6 comments:

the vlm said...

"It’s a wine of terroir, but at the same time it’s impossible to separate the signature of terroir from the signature of the house: from the first aromas of the nose it’s immediately evident that this is a Krug wine."

An interesting comment given the recent Champagne and terroir discussions.

I ran into the regional LVHM rep (I don't think they have Krug, but that was on the agenda) and he was on his way to Champagne with a stop to taste this stuff. Supposedly, $3000 a bottle or some such nonsense. Qualitatively speaking, is there any way to justify this other than "price is no object"? Wondering what they paid for the parcel and if that goes into the calculus or is it just another luxury brand?

Peter Liem said...

I don’t know what the final price of this wine will be when it is actually available at retail. (“Available” is a strong word, of course.) I read an article in a local newspaper here in Champagne last week claiming that someone in Las Vegas paid the equivalent of 4000 euros for a bottle of Clos d’Ambonnay, and my friend Jean-Baptiste told me yesterday that a bottle is going at a Zachy’s auction for $8000 right now. Obviously this sort of inflated spending is due to scarcity, and perhaps hype over a new wine. As far as what Krug will sell it for, I’m not sure it has anything to do with the purchase price of the parcel, or any other practical reasons. Krug, after all, is a luxury brand. Why are any luxury brands priced the way they are?

Lyle Fass said...

Lucky you. The '96 though is when the fireworks will really start. $5000 anybody?

Anonymous said...

"Obviously this sort of inflated spending is due to scarcity, and perhaps hype over a new wine."

Perhaps hype? Isn't this an LVMH product?

David Fang said...

Just released in Toronto. $4529 a bottle, 12 bottles released. I'd really like to know who's buying this stuff.

Elaine Hsieh said...

Just got a bottle of 1996. Can I age for a little longer? I would want to wait til big celebration!