Krug at Ballymaloe. Patience and perfection

Krug at Ballymaloe
Patience and perfection
Toast to the harvest! The Krug is served in its special Riedel glasses.
"Champagne is all about pleasure."
Nicole Brown got widespread agreement on her opening statement at Ballymaloe last Thursday evening. And that agreement was reinforced by the time the audience in the famous Cookery School had sampled the amazing Krug Grand Cuvée.


Nicole was in Ballymaloe, both as a visitor - she is on holiday in West Cork - and in an temporary extension of her role as the US Brand Ambassador for Krug Champagne. Ballymaloe’s Colm McCann was delighted with the visit and welcomed Nicole, who was accompanied by Adrien Combet of Moet Hennessy Ireland, and the rest of us to the first ever Krug tasting in Ireland!


Krug, perhaps the premier champagne house, was founded by Joseph Krug in 1843. With some previous experience of the trade and his own principles to guide him (detailed in a journal he started for his young son in 1848), he set about extracting pleasure from a difficult climate (200 days of rain per annum). The chalk soil though was and remains a huge factor in the champagne maker’s favour.


The boundaries of champagne have long been set (though there is a move on to extend them in the next year or so) and so the competition among the houses for the raw material, the grapes, can be intense. Very few houses have enough grapes of their own. Krug, with some contracts dating back to 1878, are loyal to their suppliers and it seems to work both ways.



Krug use 5000 small oak barrels (average age: 23 years) for the first fermentation. Repairs are constant but Eric Label, Chef de Caves, is determined not to use stainless steel at this stage.

The tasting committee - we are talking about the Grand Cuvée here - consists of six members charged with using their memories and tasting abilities, not to mention the legibility of their handwriting, to make the flagship wine as consistent as possible each and every time!

There is no magic formula here, just memory and taste, and taste again! Some 200 plus wines are tasted twice while the reserve still wines are tasted once or twice each year. No less than 5,000 thousand hand-written tasting notes are accumulated in Eric’s big black book and then consulted before the blend composition is finalised.

The final blend may consist of over 100 wines from ten or so different vintages (years)! The wine then matures in the cellars for at least six years. Memory, taste, and so much time! The patience of perfection.
Roast Guinea Fowl and those amazing Heritage tomatoes.
While champagne is the most regulated wine in the world, its workings are not always clear to the outsider. “Krug wants to be transparent,” said Nicole and pointed to the ID on each bottle. Download the APP and you’ll get the key info, including important dates, on the wine. Let’s check the Grand Cuvée in our hand. We see that no less than 142 still wines (some going back to 1990) were blended with the base 2006 wine and that it was aged for seven years on its lees.

The audience was now eager to taste and Colm and his crew obliged. Nicole: “The Grand Cuvée is unique, an incredible expression of champagne”. And so it is. The deep golden colour and the endless fountain of fine bubbles promise much as do the amazing aromas. And it is all delivered on the palate, full and yet fine, mature yet fresh. You won’t forget this one in a hurry.

The Krug Rose, first made commercially in the early 1980s, is crafted in much the same way as the Grand Cuvée, and includes Pinot Noir from La Cote Valnon “to make it pink. It is aged for five years and the reserve wines date back to 2000. It is amazing with cheese.” Krug offer five champagnes and all five are Prestige Cuvées.

Back in Ballymaloe House, at dinner, we were amazed at the versatility of the Grand Cuvée, matching everything from fish to fowl and not forgetting vegetarian. Ballyhoura Mushroom and Marjoram Bruschetta and Hot Buttered Ballycotton Lobsters featured in the starters while Poached Wild Blackwater Salmon, Roast free-range Guinea Fowl and Braised Ballymaloe Pork were among the mains listed.
Sunset finds Nicole and Adrien doing some field-work.
The gigantic tin whistle is the newest
addition to the FORM sculpture trail, showing all
summer long at Ballymaloe.
Cheeses included St Gall, Triskel Goats and Cashel Blue and here the Rosé was put through its paces. No problem!

It was a delicious well paced meal and one of the highlights was the Shanagarry Heritage Tomato and Basil Salad. Colm McCann had been talking this up all evening and, boy, was he right. This simple salad illustrates the essence of the Ballymaloe farm and kitchen. Here they start with simple and end with simply superb!

We dined with windows and doors open on this lovely summer’s evening. Walked out then to the front, the canopy of farmland darkness broken by a myriad of sparkling stars. The Milky Way, I saw. And then I thought. What a prosaic name. All that sparkle and the best they can come up with is milky! Why not The Champagne Way? Pourquoi pas?

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