Ode to Joy
Olivier Krug tells Renyi Lim what it’s like to be part of Krug’s champagne dynasty, how rule-breaking runs in the family and why you’ll never find him drinking from a champagne flute.
I’m sitting at the Krug Chef’s Table in Enfin by James Won, sipping a glass of Grand Cuvee with Olivier Krug, while the sound of Ravel’s Suite No. 2 from Daphnis and Chloe swells around us. “Listen!” the director of the House of Krug urges me. “Have another sip of Krug: see, it’s rolling and growing fresher with the high notes. If you were experiencing a champagne tasting to jazz music, perhaps you’d feel more bubbles, taste more ripe fruits or sense the taste moving towards your tongue. You don’t need to be an expert - it’s about feeling.”
It is indeed about feeling, and the pleasure to be gained from it – as has always been Krug’s way. The sixth-generation member of the champagne house’s founding family has been familiar with the concept ever since he was given a drop of Krug as a newborn baby, even before tasting his mother’s milk. And while Krug happily adheres to certain traditions like those, there’s a family history of breaking the rules – which was how the House came to be the first to create only prestige champagnes every year.
I ask Olivier if he thinks unconventionality is an outstanding characteristic of his family, given that he shuns champagne flutes in favour of white wine glasses. “It’s true! It’s like going to the opera with earplugs,” he says. “It’s taken so many years to craft this champagne, but in a narrow flute, everything is trapped inside and you may completely miss its intensity, versatility and joyfulness.
As for our family - yes, I think that lack of convention is there.”
“When Joseph Krug began, he broke the rules - not for the sake of breaking them, but he had a dream to create a champagne that would not suffer from the variations of nature. To aim for the very best quality every year, he had to dispense with the idea of hierarchy - those segmentations between vintage and non-vintage champagnes.”
The blending of Krug’s champagnes is a process that the Frenchman is intricately involved in, working with chef de caves Eric Lebel and other members of Krug’s Tasting Committee to sort through almost 4,000 tasting notes each year. “I love small bubbles when they go pop-pop-pop on top of your tongue, and I look for an intensity that is very precise, not a champagne that goes boom! Precision means elegance, which eventually leads to a long and fresh aftertaste, so that you want to have the next sip.”
Against a backdrop of strong champagne traditions, Krug has introduced modern ways of savouring its bubbles, like an app that charts the journey of each champagne bottle and suggests music pairing options. “This new technology is fantastic,” he enthuses. “It can take champagne lovers so much further and helps establish a better connection with our House. A sense of humour is also a part of Krug - we should not take ourselves too seriously.” www. krug.com ≠
“To aim for the very best quality every year, he had to dispense with the idea of hierarchy.”