Saturday, October 16, 2010

From Cathedral to Krug in Reims, France

Day two in the Champagne region was a bit different from day one as I joined a group of fellow journalists and our leaders from the Champagne-Ardenne and French Tourism boards.  We have quite a schedule planned for the week as we make our way through not only this region, but Burgundy as well.  First there was a lot to see in Reims and I don’t think we missed anything.

More than 80% of Reims was destroyed in World War I, and the city suffered more destruction after some was rebuilt, but the treaty to end World War II was signed in Reims and it appeared to signal good fortune to build a final restoration of a city that dates back than 2,000 years.  As Reims gets ready to celebrate the 800th birthday of the Cathedral Notre-Dame, the building of a tram in front of it leads the way to the monument's own renovations. 

In addition to the beautiful and rather large cathedral, Reims is marked by the museum next door, Palais du Tau, which houses robes, crowns and other testaments to the many French kings who enjoyed their coronation here.   This town’s visitors included the likes of Joan of Arc and Andrew Carnegie, whose generous donation built the Bibliotheque, a library which is as classical architecturally as it is modern inside.

After touring the sights of Reims, it was off to lunch as one of the most popular restaurants in the city, CafĂ© du Palais.  The eclectic scenery included art and lively conversation, as we enjoyed a typical French lunch of bread, fois gras, cheese, ham (the most tender and sweet I’ve ever eaten), potatoes au gratin and, of course champagne.  The champagne was good, but not quite as good as what I was about to have.

It would take more than this space to explain everything I learned at Krug, but suffice it to say that I can certainly understand why this is the world’s most expensive champagne.  Krug, most especially Krug Grand Cuvee, is the culmination of a small house with a dedication to tradition and perfection.    Winemaker Julie Cavil explained the detailed process of putting together their champagne, which includes seven tasters, over 100 different wines (each plot of each vineyard is treated and considered as a wine of its own) and a total of approximately 950 tastings.

It is hard to imagine the necessity of all this detail without the full tour and tasting of the product.  Another Krug expert, Julia, took me through  the barrels, where I smelled a dozen different wines, each with a unique aroma.  We then toured the caves, much smaller than Veuve Clicquot, but just as much attention to detail is paid here.  The proof, however, is in the taste.

I enjoyed the Krug Clos du Mesnil 1998, just a bit toasty from Krug’s slightly different process of a short amount of oaking.  This is a chardonnay-only blend, called in many champagnes simply blanc-de-blanc.  The Krug Vintage 1998 was a bit sweeter and rounder with more dimension.  It is a mixture of the three champagne grapes – Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinto Meunir – the percentages of which Krug does not divulge because it is not important.  It is the end product that matters most.    The best of that end product is the Krug prize, Grand Cuvee.  It’s a wonderfully smooth blend of over a hundred different wines until perfection has been reached.

After my private Krug visit, I rejoined the group for dinner at Chateau les Crayeres.  At this elegant restaurant, which is  inside one of the most exclusive hotels in the area, we had a great formal dinner that included a chicken starter with caramelized onions and mushrooms, a duck breast with date puree and a peach dessert that was brought out so beautifully designed you couldn’t even see the ice cream between the cream that looked like white chocolate with gold speckles.  Needless to say, no one left hungry and we washed it down with a taste of the wines we would soon visit – Chablis and Burgundy.  First, however, day three would be the little village of Hautvillers and then Epernay, the capital of Champagne.   After a good nice sleep in the very modern and comfortable Hotel de la Paix.


Samuel said...

Hi, I would like to know if there was any fee for the visit to Krug. If so, how much was it?

Thank you!


Marcia Frost said...

Hi Samuel,
The fee for Krug varies depending on what you want to do there. Contact them for details. It's definitely worth a trip!

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