August 17, 2012

How to ruin a Krug wine dinner

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Many weeks ago, my dear friends at WOM had extended a very kind invitation for me to attend a dinner they were hosting in conjunction with Champagne Krug.  The dinner would be attended by a small circle of Hong Kong's English language bloggers, and I was naturally delighted to have received the invitation.  Free Krug and food from 8 1/2 Otto e Mezzo, one of my favorite restaurants… was there any reason for me to not show up?!

Unfortunately, yes.  A last-minute flood of work meant that I couldn't fly in from Taipei for the dinner on that fateful Friday evening, and I missed the opportunity to spend some time with my friends I Love Lubutin and e_ting.  My consolation price was reading about it here.  Or so I thought.

There was to be another dinner tonight, with a totally different crowd and venue.  My dear friends from WOM extended the invitation a second time, and this time I made sure that I would not miss this opportunity.

I arrived at Caprice a little late, and tried to cool down after my jog through Central.  I can't think of a better way than sipping on a glass of Krug Grande Cuvée.  I was introduced to the representatives from LVMH - one of whom apparently reads this humble little blog - but of course Arnaud needs no introduction.  He's been a familiar face around town since his days at Petrus, although I haven't seen him in the last couple of years.

Champagne Krug needs no introduction, at least for me.  It's been featured as part of many wine dinners (and casual lunches!) among my friends, including a dinner at the Krug Room here in Hong Kong, and this would in fact be the third time that I've attended a tasting of the 98 vintage with someone representing the house.  I first tasted it back in 2009 at a larger dinner that Krug hosted, then again in 2010 at another tasting.  One of the most interesting things about wine is tasting the same wine over time as it evolves, and I was really curious to compare tonight's tasting notes with my previous versions.

We soon sat down for the "Point to Universe" tasting, with the four "regular" offerings from the house. The two missing wines, of course, are the über-luxury blanc de noirs Clos d'Ambonnay and the late-disgorgement Krug Collection.

Krug Grande Cuvée, first glass served during reception - toasty and smoky nose, pain grillé, caramelized sugar and candy notes.  Nice acidity balance, and a little tart on the finish.  Later on the palate was a little sweeter.

1998 Krug Clos du Mesnil - first pour: flinty, caramelized sugar, lovely oxidation, sweet.  Starting to show her voluptuous body as it slowly undresses and reveals her mysteries.  A hint of acidity on the finish.  A little vanilla, tropical fruits like pineapple, and creamy butter on the nose.  Second pour: colder now.  A little fresher, more vibrant, slightly higher acidity, more citrus notes.

1998 Krug - orange marmalade ripe, surprisingly more acidic on the palate than the Mesnil.  Bubblegum, sugar, lovely oxidation, straw, flint and mineral.  Perhaps a little more restrained than the Mesnil at this point, which surprised me.

Krug Grande Cuvée, glass from the tasting - served colder than my first glass, which made it more vibrant.  Flinty nose with higher acidity.  Still lovely.

Krug Rosé - toasty, flinty and a little more red fruits.

On any given day, my go-to Champagne would be Krug Grande Cuvée over any of its stable mates.  What I realized tonight was that the Mesnil was really starting to shine, as it continues to evolve and mature.  I look forward to future tastings and chart her evolution, as I wait for the right occasion to pop open my first bottle of 1995 Krug Clos d'Ambonnay.

With the tasting portion over, we were finally able to move on and get some food.  With Caprice being one of my favorite restaurant in town, you can imagine my excitement…

Amuse bouche - basil and yellow pepper sorbet.  The yellow pepper was actually a little spicy, which made things a little interesting.  The salsa of rock melon, honeydew melon and watermelon was very refreshing and sweet.

Veal tartare cannelloni, marinated vegetables and caviar impérial de France - very interestingly done, with a thin sheet of veal acting as the wrapper to hold in the diced veal tartare in tube form.  I was curious about the combination of raw veal and caviar, but they worked together just fine.

Langoustine fricassée, girolle mushrooms, grenaille potatoes, sweet and sour apricot - the fat langoustine tails were very sweet and succulent, and girolles are always yummy.  I liked the different treatment of apricot, which added a different dimension to the dish.

Racan pigeon feuilleté, foie gras, nori seaweed an aubergine fondant in warm citrus vinaigrette - one of my favorite dishes here, ever since I first tried it more than two years ago.  The combination of flavors from the nori, foie and pigeon worked so well.  The eggplant fondant was made with rosemary and cream.

The consommé on the side was pretty nice, too…

Next Jeremy served us a selection from his treasured cellar of cheese:

Brillat-Savarin fermier - I had this amazing triple-cream melt-in-your-mouth baby on my last visit to Caprice, and I was so happy to be having it again so soon.  Soooo creamy.  Salty, nutty, almost a little like a blue cheese, with some acidity.

Anneau du Vic-Bihl - thick, rich and creamy.  Nutty and slightly acidic.

Coup-de-Corne - salty, a little smoky and slightly pungent.

Comté, 4 years, 1st wheel - walnut, not as salty as I expected, more creamy than usual.

Comté, 4 years, 2nd wheel - Jeremy wanted us to try this, because he thought the flavors were very different from his usual stock.  He was right.  This was pretty bitter on the palate, and my friend from WOM found it "funky".

Red berry panaché - what a perfect way to end the meal!  Pure summer berries.  Really refreshing after a round of cheese.

We finished with some mignardises, which were yummy as usual.

It would have been a perfectly lovely evening, except that perfection was marred by my neighbor ruining my evening with her overpowering perfume.  It doesn't really bother me that some people in the group knows little about food or wine.  We have all been novices at some point, and I'm sure that in the eyes of winemakers and critics I myself am still a novice - there is always so much that is yet to be learned.

But the cardinal sin at a wine tasting is to wear lots of perfume or cologne.  I had a horrendous experience last year when the guy at the next table threatened to overpower my bottle of 1969 Montrachet with his cologne.  Fortunately I was able to move to a private room that evening, thereby avoiding total disaster.

As I started to detect some unfamiliar floral notes which I thought were atypical of the 1998 Mesnil, I decided to excuse myself from the table and moved to the sofa on the side.  I'm sure the rest of the guests - probably including Arnaud - thought I was being antisocial and rude, but I couldn't care less at that point.  There was no way this woman was going to ruin my wonderful glass of Mesnil.  Not tonight.  Not ever.

I finally returned to the table after finishing the first glass and jotting down my notes.  But the onslaught was relentless, wave after wave.  My kind co-host offered to switch seats with me - because he, too, could smell it from 2 seats away - and even suggested that I move to the end of the table.  I decided that it would be rude of me to do so, and I stayed where I was for the rest of the evening.

Towards the end of the evening, somehow the conversation with Arnaud turned to perfume… and Arnaud asked me what cologne I used, if any.  I told him matter-of-factly that I stopped wearing any cologne when I started to drink wine.  Any kind of strong scent would screw with your (and other people's) nose, and your tasting ability would be greatly diminished.  My co-host chuckled knowingly, but I was just stating a fact, and not trying to attack anyone…

I really did enjoy myself, of course, and very thankful to WOM and Champagne Krug for the kind invitation.  Of course, Jeremy, Francis, Peter and the team at Caprice did an excellent job tonight, and there is little wonder why I would always choose to return...


Speedyfox said...

This is a superbly written blog - full of detailed description of the food and the bubbly, finishing off with your sardonic wit. I totally concur with you about perfume. I loathe when men and women intoxicate themselves with artificial smell overload. It gives me a headache. Perfume was invented when froggies had baths probably once every 3 months. I assume most people have access to more frequent sanitary facilities these days, so BURN that bottles of pungent urine!

Peech said...

Thanks, Ms. Speedy! I think restaurants that are serious about wine should have a "no perfume" zone just like they used to have "non smoking" sections...

KC said...

I still remember the cheese dinner last year...great review, thanks for sharing.


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