Saturday 17 March 2018

Say it with Bubbles!

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

Corinna Hardgrave

Thursday was International Women's Day, and, as I'm sure you know, tomorrow is Mother's Day, so I thought it was the perfect time to talk about an amazing woman, who also happens to be a mother, and indeed a grandmother.

As the CEO of Krug, Margareth Henriquez, a Venezuelan and Harvard graduate, has been the head of one of the most prestigious Champagne houses since 2010, and if you're thinking, 'I've never tasted Krug', there's a good reason for that. Quite simply there is no entry level Krug. The Grand Cuvée will set you back nearly €200, their vintage Champagne even more, so even for die-hard Champagne lovers, it is very much a bottle for special occasions.

But putting all this exclusivity aside, Maggie, as she is known to everyone, is one of the most engaging people you can meet. Blending, she explains, is the magic of Champagne, and at Krug, they take it to a fine art. Typically the big houses buy grapes from a cross section of local growers, so that they have a mix of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, the three grapes that can be used in the making of Champagne. Each of these grapes brings a different characteristic to the finished wine but the specific terroir and how the grapes are managed also has a huge influence on the flavour profile.

At Krug, every single wine that is used in the blend (which can be up to 200 wines) is tasted with the wine grower. A grower may be supplying the house with grapes for years, but if their wine does not meet the standard in a given year, they are paid for the grapes (so that they continue to be a supplier), but informed that the wine will not be included. There is much discussion on the reasons and the idea is that the grower will be better equipped to avoid pitfalls in the future. "After seeing this, I realised, wow, every bottle of Krug is a collection of layers of wines, selected to illustrate that expression of nature. Every layer has been tasted and appraised individually," says Maggie.

But it is not just the wines from that year that are used in the blend of the Grand Cuvée - Krug keeps wines from past years in reserve, and these are also used in the blend. This is a common practice in the big houses, but in the case of Krug, they have close to 150 different wines in their reserve, and the final blend could include up to 50pc of reserve wine, so what you are getting is a very full, rich style with layers of complexity and years of development.

It is as complicated as it sounds. Following the harvest, a small group of tasters, led by the cellar master Eric Lebel, meet at 11am each morning to taste 15 young wines, no more than that as it is important that their palates remain fresh and their notes are detailed. "During this five months of tastings, 1,000 samples are tasted by five people around the table, and everybody expresses a list of words, which is very much their definition of the wine," says Maggie. "We look for structure, expression, fruit, freshness and elegance. A real balanced Champagne is when you have all of these things. A really good Champagne will be expressive, and it's about precision."

So for Mother's Day, if you're feeling flush, you may spring for an exquisite bottle of Krug, or I have a few more options here, which will make a lovely Mothers' Day present.


Gin aficionados can specify their own customised gin and tonic in the Morrison Hotel in Dublin where the range includes local craft beauties like Drumshanbo Gunpowder, Berthas Revenge Small Batch, Dingle Pot Still, Bonac 24, Blackwater No. 5, Blackwater Strawberry and Shortcross and for an international flavour, there's Beefeater 24, Hendricks, Star of Bombay, Monkey 47, Plymouth Navy Strength or Tanqueray 10. For tonic water, try Poachers, Thomas Henry's Soda or Elderflower or the Merchants Heart collection which includes Pink Peppercorn, Hibiscus, Lite or Sweet Lemon. Finish with basil, cucumber or grapefruit, or experiment with olive, vanilla, star anise, mint, ginger, thyme, cloves and juniper.

3 wines to try

Krug Grand Cuvée, approx €195

12pc, from O’Brien’s, 64 Wines, On the Grapevine, Corkscrew, Celtic Whiskey Shop, Jus de Vine, and

If you’re going big on gifts for Mother’s Day, this exquisite Champagne from Krug is one to consider for a Champagne lover. Beguilingly complex, it is layered with rich flavours of roasted nuts, apple, white flowers, golden toast and a whisper of oak.

Valdo, Marco Oro, Valdobbiadene Prosecco Spumante Superior DOCG, €24

11pc, from O’Briens, Nolan’s, Martins, Londis Shiels, Coolers, Jus de Vine; Lilac Wines, The Grapevine, all in Dublin; Wine Centre, Kilkenny; Malt House, Trim; Egan’s Portlaoise; 1601, Kinsale

The best quality Prosecco comes from the Valdobbiadene region in Italy, and this one has layers of stewed apple, acacia flowers and lemon sherbet with soft bubbles. Perfect as an aperitif.


Tinpot Hut Sauvignon Blanc 2017, €21.99

13pc, from Mitchells, Jus de Vine, McHughs, Clontarf Wines, Blackrock Cellar, all Dublin; Matson’s Wine Store and The Cinnamon Cottage, Cork; The Parting Glass, Enniskerry, and

From Marlborough in New Zealand, this has a distinctive flinty nose, a concentration of herbaceous grass, thyme and lemongrass, and a good balance of lemon, grapefruit and passion fruit flavours.

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