THE HOUSE THAT KRUG FOUNDED
The first and only champagne house to create prestige cuvées every year since its establishment in 1843, Krug recreates its annual iconic Grande Cuvée while launching a new musical tasting experience
Krug’s annual iconic Grande Cuvée
Krug Grande Cuvée is the raison d’être of the house of Krug. It has been its signature wine since 1843 when founder Johann Joseph Krug aimed to give his clients the very best champagne possible annually regardless of climatic variations. Going against the status quo where the vintage is traditionally given greater importance, Krug is one of the rare houses where the blend is given preference over any vintage that may or may not have been made in a given year. This results in a fullness of flavour and aroma unattainable with wines of just a single year. It balances out years that weren’t particularly spectacular with those that were, so there’s never any champagne of lower quality. For example, if a hailstorm or excessive heat or rainfall at the wrong time damaged a particular grape variety in one year, the house’s extensive collection of reserve wines would come into play in creating the blend.
Cellar master Eric Lebel knows from exactly which vineyards and vintages of a certain wine to inject the necessary fruitiness, liveliness, freshness or elegance in just the right doses to create excellent champagne. He says, “To make Krug Grande Cuvée, we start from scratch every year to achieve the same result. We have nearly 250 different wines from the year’s harvest at our disposal, and a library of 150 reserve wines from around 12 vintages where the oldest can be 15 years old— but no recipe.” MUSIC AND CHAMPAGNE
To celebrate the production of this special champagne, Krug invited guests to its home in Reims in June for the Krug World Festival, which also saw it kick off its new association with the world of music. There, guests were treated to a combination of champagne, food and music.
Indeed, while food and wine pairings are all too common, Krug has taken the alternative route of music. Studies by Oxford University’s Crossmodal Research Laboratory has shown that hearing can make an impact on the tasting experience. Believing that music can enhance the taste experience of its champagne, Krug has decided to sponsor further studies in this field. Each style of music—whether traditional rhythms or modern beats—adds to the tasting experience. By developing relationships with musicians across all genres, the champagne house hopes to have specific music paired with different Krug champagnes. In fact, the back of each Krug bottle carries a six-digit code known as the Krug ID, which contains not only information about the contents but also a specially selected musical pairing. For example, a Krug 1998 Magnum may be accompanied by Vivaldi’s Summer, and a Krug Collection 1989 by the L’Amour est un Oiseau Rebelle aria from Bizet’s opera, Carmen.
The house considers the creation of a Krug champagne to be a musical experience and accordingly, peppers its literature with music metaphors. “Each individual plot, through its wine, is considered to be a fine musician, contributing its own unique character and sparkle to a Krug champagne,” said director and sixth-generation family member, Olivier Krug. But music is no stranger to the Krug family. Almost as proof, Olivier showed us a musical score dating back to 1914 written by his grandfather, Joseph Krug II, to his wife during WWI when he was a prisoner of war.
A TOUR OF THE RESIDENCE
The launch of the Krug World Festival also marked the first time the brand welcomed such a large crowd into its recently renovated house.
Its chalk cellars are kept at a constant 12 degrees Celsius year-round. It is here that all of Krug’s production is carried out. A historical site, these cellars provided shelter from bombardments during WWI, and served as a school, church, hospital and base for soldiers even while champagne continued to be made.
Here, we were treated to the sounds of bottling of the Grande Cuvée 172nd edition based on 2016’s wines, which was getting ready to be stored until its release in 2023.
Further on, we caught glimpses of the living room, dining area, library (formerly the bedroom of Olivier’s grandparents) and tasting room, and enjoyed dinner in the garden prepared by chef Arnaud Lallement of three-Michelin-starred L’Assiette Champenoise in Tinqueux. Lobster was paired with Krug 2002, squab pie with foie gras, tomato confit and spinach with Krug Rosé 21st edition, and roasted peach, verbena, muesli and dried fruit with the Krug Grande Cuvée 160th edition. Meanwhile, English folk and soul singer-songwriter Lianne La Havas, French rapper Sly Johnson and reputed Franco-American jazz pianist and Krug lover Jacky Terrasson performed to heighten the tasting experience.
Released last May, the latest Krug Grande Cuvée on the market is its 164th edition. This comprises a blend of 127 wines from 11 different years—the youngest from 2008 and the oldest from 1990—all based around the 2008 harvest. Consisting of 48 per cent Pinot Noir, 35 per cent Chardonnay and 17 per cent Meunier, reserve wines make up 38 per cent of the final blend to bring breadth and roundness.
Embodying fullness with the sensation of youth, it presents a golden colour and fine bubbles, marzipan, dried and citrus fruits, gingerbread, flowers in bloom and tarte tatin to the nose, and vivacity, honey, almond, citrus and white fruits, brioche, minerality, nougat and hazelnut to the palate. Lebel started from a clean slate, before going to the plots to taste the grapes. By autumn, the grapes were harvested, then the in-house tasting committee gathered for five months to blind-taste base wines and register some 5,000 observations in the cellar master’s black book. The champagne was created in March 2009, blended in May that year and bottled in June.
The next edition will be launched at the end of the year. There are two Grande Cuvées in 2017 as they correspond to 2008 and 2009 during the financial crisis when Krug produced smaller quantities. Then, the house was prepared to absorb the impact of these two difficult years. But difficult times are thus transformed into opportunities later.
Left A range of Krug champagnes, with Krug Grande Cuvée in the centre
page A Krug Journey event in New York in 2016
Right Krug Clos du Mesnil pays tribute to the crisp purity of a single walled plot of vines in the village of Mesnil-surOger