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

Wine & Dine - - CONTENTS - WORDS Y-JEAN MUN-DELSALLE

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

Op­po­site

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

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