Olivier Krug :"Champagne Royalty"
By Amy Lively Jensen
The House of Krug is an iconic Champagne producer in Reims, France that has earned a reputation for crafting some of the most exemplary and noteworthy Champagnes in this region. They have received international acclaim through the decades for the precision, purity and complexity of their style. To experience a Krug Champagne can be described as an existential journey into a realm of the nearly perfect. I had the extreme honor of two one-on-one meetings with Olivier Krug and visits to the prestigious House of Krug in Reims, France During this time, I had a glimpse into the character of this striking man, his convictions and devotion to crafting these flawless champagnes.
Olivier is the sixth generation of his family to oversee the creation of Krug, which began in 1843. A distinguished gentleman with savoir-faire, Olivier Krug looks to be the prototypical Frenchman in his scarf and stylish dress. His passion repeatedly shines through as he discusses his family’s history and the nuances of Krug Champagne.
His great-great-great grandfather Joseph Krug at the age of 42, had a vision of creating the greatest expression of champagne, regardless of the vintage. As Champagne “is always about pleasure”, his dream was to get the fullest expression.” He documented his thoughts in a leather-bound journal, capturing everything he believed about what a good champagne is about, and what he was trying to do with the Champagne house he founded. In 1848, he wrote: “in principle, a good house should offer two cuvees of the same composition and quality. The first will be re-created every year and is the hardest to make. We will balance what nature gave us with reserve, mature wine, and the blend will offer the best quality in every year. The second will be as the first, but linked to the circumstances of the particular year.” In addition to non-vintage prestige cuvees, they created a vintage Champagne whenever they felt it told the story of the year.
Olivier continues this tradition with attention to uncompromising quality which he learned first-hand from two previous generations including his father, uncle and grandfather. Krug’s Grand Cuvee has no specific recipe, but it almost always consists of more than 250 different individual wines from plots that they vinify separately each year. Adding to the complexity, Krug blends over 150 different reserve wines from at least 12-14 prior vintages into the Cuvee. The end result takes 20 years to create. Olivier’s main responsibility is to oversee the taste of Krug, and head the tasting committee, which assesses the wines before Cellar Master Eric Lebel crafts the champagne. “On our tasting committee, there is no hierarchy; the youngest member of the committee has the same voice as that of my father, who has been the leader for 50 years,” Olivier explained. Most surprisingly, Krug doesn’t care about consistency. “We are obsessed with individuality; it is about the nuances.”
It took 140 years to release a Krug Rose. “In the 1970’s, the family had a desire to create a champagne that did not yet exist,” he said. “This spurred the creation of Krug Rose, an unexpected rose champagne combining distinction and boldness. It is fabulous with food, especially spicy and rich dishes. It is like drinking silk.”
Krug features six labels. There is the Krug Grande Cuvee Krug Rose, Krug Vintage, Krug Collection, Krug Clos du Mesnil and Krug Clos d’Ambonnay. “We craft our champagnes seriously, but we don’t take ourselves seriously,” Olivier imparted. “You owe your client an experience. The first sip must be an explosion of flavors. Most people don’t forget their first taste of Krug.”
He is adamant about appropriate glassware. “You need champagne served in a proper glass, so never in a flute because it is too narrow. It’s as if you were going to the opera with earplugs,” he quipped. He continued: “Once you have done that, you take a sip of Krug and you have a fireworks of aromas and tastes. That is Krug.”
Unlike many winemakers who guard their trade secrets, transparency is a hallmark of Krug. On the back of each bottle, there is a Krug ID. This tells the unique story of the bottle. To learn about it, you go to Krug.com or open the Krug app and type in the six-digit number. Here you will find information about its creation, its composition, serving and storing tips, and food and music pairing suggestions.
Olivier believes that music can change your perception of taste. To heighten the tasting, he created the Krug Music Experience on the Krug app; it is a music and champagne pairing program. Every year, the House invites musicians with high standards of excellence to a tasting of different champagnes. Inspired by what they taste, these artists create music to reflect their tasting experience. Why did he add this new dimension to Krug? “For me, the joy of savoring a masterfully crafted champagne while listening to a piece of music allows one to travel down a direct pathway to emotion, and I am glad that everyone can now share this experience,” he explained.
Olivier concluded with his overall feelings about his family’s champagne. “Krug is about emotion. It reminds me of a true love story.” And who could not love Krug?