Thursday, February 14, 2013

My Grandfather used to call Ambonnay the Margaux of Champagne, France

Picture: Krug, Clos d'Ambonnay, the Most Expensive Champagne in the World

“My grandfather used to call Ambonnay the Margaux of Champagne" says Olivier Krug from the Champagne House Krug. I visited Ambonnay twice last year.

Ambonnay in the Champagne

Ambonnay is in the Montagne de Reims region of the Champagne. In 1927, the viticultural boundaries of Champagne were legally defined and split into five wine producing districts - The Aube, Côte des Blancs, Côte de Sézanne, Montagne de Reims, and Vallée de la Marne.

The Champagne region lies at the northern edge of the world’s vineyard-growing areas. So, Champagne’s grapes bear the hallmark acidity of a cool climate region. The Champagne area covers 33,500 hectares of vineyards around 319 villages that are home to 100 Champagne Houses that buy grapes and make their own Champagne, 5,000 growers who grow grapes and make their own wine and 14,000 growers who only sell grapes. The region is set to expand to include 359 villages in the near future.


Ambonnay, with its medieval architecture, was a thriving place in the Middle Ages. It was erected on the spot of a Gallo-Roman villa. Later, Templar monks, belonging to "La Commanderie Saint Jean de Jerusalem" lived there. Those monks were great builders who, at the beginning of the 11th century, built the church of Ambonny, a beautiful example of Roman style turned into Gothic style along the years.

Picture: Ambonnay

From this time on, the vineyard has been part of village dwellers' everyday life. Located on the Côte des Grands Noirs de la Montagne de Reims, the Ambonnay terroir spreads over an area of about 914 acres. At the very heart of the traditional Champagne region, the Ambonnay - Bouzy hillside enjoys a South-South East exposition. Because it is planted 130 meters above sea level, most part of the vineyard may often avoid the damages of spring freezing.

Krug's Clos d'Ambonnay Champagne

Grapes from Ambonnay are the source of Krug's Clos d'Ambonnay Champagne, the most expensive Champagne in the world. 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 of 0.685 hectares 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. Only 3000 bottles are made from 11 tiny 200 liter Krug casks.

Krug was established in 1843 by Johann-Joseph Krug, a German from Mainz. Johann-Joseph learned his trade at the Champagne House Jacquesson before setting up Krug in Reims. His son, Paul continued the family business, who was succeeded by his son, Joseph Krug II in 1910. Today, Krug is part of the global luxury brands conglomerate Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy (LVMH).

Krug owns 20 hectares of vines and gets the rest of the grapes from long-term contract growers. Unlike other négociants, Krug's growers consider themselves part of a long-standing prestigious group that openly reveal Krug as the destination of their grapes.

The Krug lineup of wines currently includes:

•    Grande Cuvée NV
•    Rose NV
•    A vintage bottling produced in good to excellent years (e.g. Krug 1988)
•    Clos du Mesnil (single vineyard, single vintage, Blanc de Blancs bottling)
•    Clos d'Ambonnay (single vineyard, single vintage, Blanc de Noirs bottling)
•    Krug Collection (a recently released older vintage bottling)

The Grande Cuvée NV is blended from anywhere between 20 and 30 crus across the Champagne and from 6 to 10 vintages, and not necessarily the most recent vintages. Krug disgorges its wines no earlier than six years on lees, with the Collection series being held on lees for as long as 15 to 20 years.


We had lunch at the Auberge Saint Vincent. We did not have any Krug Clos d'Ambonnay, but other nice champagnes from the region. The lunch was nothing special, just good and reasonably priced. Service was efficient and friendly.

Picture: Lunch at Auberge Saint Vincent

Auberge Saint Vincent
1 rue saint Vincent, 51150 Ambonnay, France

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