If I’m lucky, Renaissance Vintners might just get a six pack of 2002 Krug. It’s a wine that merchants will take orders for rather than sell. As a commodity, which is what a lot of wine has become, it’s a rare nailed-on winner, no matter what it tastes like. LVMH could release this blind and it would sell. It’s an underpriced IPO. A name like Krug and a vintage like 2002, combined, is a winning ticket no matter what.
As it happens, they haven’t released 2002 Krug blind. Most of the UK trade has tasted it now, along with critics, bloggers, sommeliers, hangers-on, and me. And the wine stands up. It’s very easy to be seduced by Champenois marketing but it’s money up the wall in this case: the wine does the seduction without make-up, without frills. Here’s my note:
“Clearly brighter than the 2003. This even looks steely. Am I being seduced already? This is 13 years old, and whilst it doesn’t look like a puppy, it doesn’t look much older. Very, very, Krug in style on the nose: biscuits, cream and that inimitable Krug muscle. It gets better in the mouth. Meaty. Taut. Poised. And, whilst we’ll all talk about its potential for the cellar, this is ready to go now – there is a touch of maturity to this, and that voluptuous side that to me is all about 2002: that chunky seduction. This may well be sold as a young wine but to me it is already on the way up: it’s not a baby, not a boy, it’s an adolescent, and a punchy one at that. And – this is the real mark – there is a depth to this that matches grand cru white Burgundy (either the steeliness of Corton-Charlemagne from a cool plot, or maybe just Chevalier-Montrachet). Seriously good, and has to be touching 97 or more if I’m going to score it.”
Yohan Cabaye, Andrew Johnson, Wilfried Zaha (I’m building quite a team here, and that’s maybe the point) are legends, or potential legends, of Crystal Palace Football Club, and they are, or were, key components of the teams that they play or played in. Cabaye has an intelligence, an ability to read a game, that is a joy to watch: the way he places a pass like he’s reading the future, like he’s living in a world that is five or ten seconds ahead of the rest of the players. AJ, our terrier-like striker from 2002 – 2006 was mostly renowned for scoring goals and winning penalties, though watch him through a whole game and his work rate was extraordinary, a point missed by many. And Zaha? On the right day there are few other football players that can match him and, for sheer entertainment, he is peerless.
I digress. My point here is about teams. 2002 Krug is a very special wine, but it’s just part of a team, and it’s even better in the team than it is on its own.
I’m lucky enough to have tasted a fair bit of Krug, even luckier to have tasted vintage Krug against its Grande Cuvée counterpart a few times (by which I mean tasting the multi-vintage wine next to the vintage wine upon which it is based). The verdict has always been the same: Grande Cuvée, the “multi-vintage”, is always the stronger wine. It’s like bacon and eggs. Vintage Krug is just the bacon: good, but just missing something. Grande Cuvée is bacon and eggs.
At the 2002 Krug launch we were also treated with the current release of Grande Cuvée (edition 163, based on the 2007 vintage), 2003 Krug, a wine that I could just drink and drink and drink, and, the wine of the night for me, the Grande Cuvée that is based on the 2002 vintage. My note on Krug “edition 158” is pretty short, but sums it up:
“Bacon and eggs. Complete. This makes the 2002 seem vulnerable … like a ballet dancer that knows, or fears, that she’s got something wrong. Mouthfeel. Exceptional. This is what I would buy.”
Great wines don’t need long notes and there’s not much point writing up a wine that you can’t buy. 2002 Krug is a great wine, one that doesn’t need a long and slightly salesy note from me, but what I might call 2002 Grande Cuvée is better. And I say that those that know what they are doing know that when it comes to Krug, it’s the Grande Cuvée that is the real deal Holyfield. The team effort. The full English. The 2002 Krug goes back to what it is: a component part of something greater.
And, back to the football. Andrew Johnson was the top scorer in the first division (what would now be the Championship) in the 2003 – 2004 season with 28 league goals. AJ was the star, the vintage component if you like. But my shirt from that season bears the name of Wayne Routledge, and the following season’s shirt is nameless only because Neil Shipperley, whose flick-ons provided AJ with the fuel he needed, never played for us in the Premier League. Just these three component parts, very much at different levels, and radically different in terms of skill (and appearance, for what that is worth) when viewed on their own, made something very special indeed when together. The chaps at Krug might not appreciate the comparison with Championship rather than Champions’ League football, but the point is the blend, and what can be achieved with it. What you can build on top of something, what you can add.