The first grapes | Krug
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Grape in the vineyard Grape in the vineyard

The first grapes



Every year, the harvest at Krug begins in a place that is particularly dear to the House.
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For Krug, the vendanges season always begins at its cherished Clos du Mesnil. This uique Chardonnay plot – a tiny microclimate nestled behind protective walls in the heart of Le Mesnil-sur-Oger since 1698 – has for many years been the first to be harvested by Krug each season.
In years when the full potential of this exceptional plot is expressed, Krug Cellar Master Eric Lebel will decide to create a Krug Clos du Mesnil. At the moment of harvest, though, it is still too early to tell. Only the tasting of the year’s wines a few months after the picking and pressing will reveal if the season’s efforts will lead to this. Otherwise, the wines may contribute their unique expression to another blend or enter the House’s library of reserve wines. 
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves and instead take a closer look at the first moments of one of the year's high points at Krug.

A question

of taste
A question of taste A question of taste
The dates on which the different sections that make up this plot are picked and pressed vary from year to year. At Krug, it is taste and taste alone that governs any winemaking decision so the right time to start is decided just a few days before by the House’s Tasting Committee during the “tasting of the berries”.
For 2017, the flavours foretold the relatively early date of 25th August for a particular section of the plot. So it is here that the story truly starts.

From picking

to press
Picture an early morning in Le Mesnil-sur-Oger in the heart of the Champagne’s Côte des Blancs region. Its centre is a hive of activity as the vendangeurs gather at the Clos du Mesnil: the harvest has begun at Krug.
Overseen by Eric Lebel and other members of the winemaking team, the pickers receive their orders. As with many things at Krug, precision is key – five different levels of bunch quality are identified and the pickers are only to select the very best. Next, they learn which specific rows to harvest. At the Clos du Mesnil, Krug takes its plot-by-plot approach to the highest level. Within this single plot, particular zones are picked, pressed and barrelled individually so as to capture each one’s unique character at its most expressive.
The pickers set to work, the air a blend of concentration and camaraderie, cutting off the bunches with a clean snip of their secateurs and placing them carefully into baskets. Once full, their contents are transferred to a case at the end of a row. Then it is over to the débardeur who carries the full case to a pallet for weighing.
Snip snip snip go the secateurs. The baskets fill up, the cases are carried away and slowly, the scales inch further and further towards the 4000 kg mark – the maximum capacity of the Clos du Mesnil press - until finally a cry is heard: “c’est bon!”


KRUG The First grapes Presseurs KRUG The First grapes Presseurs
With the picking complete, now comes the turn of the presseurs. They load up the press, taking care not to crush its precious cargo, and gently lower the screw. This is a moment of great pressure, but not for the grapes since only the gentlest of forces must be exerted – the same is if each on were being squeezed between finger and thumb.
The first juice starts flow into a tank below. This is what is known as the cuvée, the very first drop from each grape – the only juice that, once it has naturally clarified, will be barrelled and begin its journey towards becoming a wine at Krug.
The screw stops turning, the stream of juice reduces to a trickle. The first day of the harvest at Krug draws to a close… and the act of Champagne creation is just beginning.