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Olivier Krug on Protecting his Family’s Legacy

This story originally appeared in the September/October 2017 issue of Elite Traveler.

For six generations, the Krug family has delivered some of the world’s finest champagnes, following the philosophy of founder Joseph Krug. As they uncork another year of excellence, Olivier Krug delves into his family’s incredible history.

Growing up, it was never a given that I would follow in the footsteps of the five generations that have come before me at the House of Krug. But today, it is my great honor to be director of the house founded by my great-great-great grandfather Joseph Krug. He was a visionary man who understood that the essence of champagne was pleasure itself.

Driven by a dream to offer the very best champagne every year, regardless of annual variations in climate, his pioneering idea went beyond all known boundaries to offer the fullest expression of champagne. By doing so, he created the sole champagne house to create only prestige champagnes every year since its founding. In 1848, my ancestor consigned the founding principles of the house to posterity in his dark cherry colored notebook and each generation has helped to move the house forward through their passion and dedication, while always staying true to its uncompromising philosophy of champagne creation.

When Joseph Krug passed away in 1866, his son Paul took over as head of the house. It was he who moved the house to its current location and built the premises and cellars we see today. In addition to expanding the business, he was father to 10 children, one of whom, Joseph II, succeeded him. I cannot talk about this poet and man of wit without talking about his wife, Jeanne, who kept the house going through the tribulations of the First World War, when her husband was taken prisoner. Jeanne is my personal hero; she offered the city’s inhabitants shelter from heavy bombardment in Krug’s cellars and carried out important volunteer work, while also succeeding in creating a 1915 vintage despite many vineyards being on the front line.

Her son, Paul II, brought the house well and truly into the 20th century, putting advances in modern technology at the service of Krug’s craftsmanship. He introduced the use of small steel vats to preserve the incredible freshness of the house’s reserve wines — a method we use to this day. He was succeeded by his sons Henri and Rémy, under whose forward-looking auspices the house acquired the Clos du Mesnil and Clos d’Ambonnay, now legendary thanks to their unique champagnes, each one the story of a single year and a single grape variety in a single plot of vines. In the 1970s, their desire to create a champagne that did not yet exist spurred the creation of Krug Rosé, an unexpected rosé champagne combining distinction and boldness.

When I joined the house in September 1989, I was fortunate enough to learn from two previous generations — my father, my uncle and my grandfather. In the tradition of the house, I was soon sent out into the world to meet and understand our clients. I spent 15 incredible years in Japan, during which time the country would become one of the house’s top markets.

I continue to travel a great deal in my current role, sharing the Krug spirit with Krug lovers. It is said that you never forget your first taste of Krug and the house shares a privileged relationship with these passionate and creative free spirits. I have the good fortune of visiting our network of Krug Ambassades all over the world. They are the setting for memorable sensory encounters, and for enjoying the unexpected yet exquisite pairing of Krug Grande Cuvée with some truly remarkable dishes.

When I am not traveling, I am in my beloved hometown of Reims. It is a beautiful city that I encourage you to visit. I live next door to the Krug family house, the fully restored historic residence of the Krug family and the place where I grew up. Today it offers a timelessly elegant space for Krug to welcome guests and offer them an immersive journey into the universe of Krug.

Tasting sessions take place in the Room of 400 Wines. These represent the house’s 250 wines of the year and 150 reserve wines, each one capturing the essence of a single plot of vines. Every year these are tasted and assessed by the house’s tasting committee before the cellar master Eric Lebel, guided by his great intuition and talent, chooses that year’s champagnes.

Today Eric and the wine-making team perpetuate the house’s extraordinary heritage of craftsmanship. My ancestor’s unique philosophy lives on in Krug Grande Cuvée, the fullest expression of champagne, recreated every year from a blend of over 120 different wines from more than 10 different years. This April, Eric and his team
finished the blend for Krug Grande Cuvée 172ème Édition, the 172nd edition of the dream of the house’s founder that will leave Krug’s cellars after a stay of at least seven years, gaining in expression and finesse.

Every year since the foundation of the house, one creation, one blend, one bottling and thus one new Édition of Krug Grande Cuvée, the fullest expression of champagne, has come to life. Now the number of each Édition is displayed on the bottle’s front label, bringing to light the rarity, uniqueness and collectability of Krug Grande Cuvée.

Right now, I am particularly excited about the much-anticipated presentation of Krug 2004. After 12 years in the cellars, the story of the year 2004 captured by Krug is ready to be enjoyed. Named Luminous Freshness by the house, every time I taste this balanced and vibrant champagne, I am enveloped by the sensations of early summer mornings in the Champagne region. It will be presented alongside Krug Grande Cuvée 160ème Édition, composed around harvest of 2004, a blend of 121 wines from 12 different years. These two different expressions of nature, both of the same level of distinction, perfectly embody the approach my ancestor envisioned
— one that all Krug champagnes follow to this day.

The unique story of each bottle of Krug 2004 will be revealed via its Krug ID, the six digit number on the back label of every bottle of Krug champagne. Simply entering the Krug ID online at Krug.com, on the Krug app, on Google or Twitter opens the doors to an array of information, including the story of its creation, its composition, serving and storing tips and food and music pairing suggestions. As a house with a
contemporary spirit and a history of pioneering, Krug embraces new digital technology and its potential to delight and strengthen our connection with Krug lovers.

It was in this spirit that the house created the Krug music pairings. 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 very glad that everyone can now share this experience. Each year, the house invites musicians in whose standards of excellence it feels a kinship to an extended tasting of its different champagnes. Inspired by what they taste, these artists choose a special playlist to reflect what they felt and how they connected to their tasting experience. These selections take the whole tasting experience to another dimension. I will leave you to
discover the specially chosen music pairing for Krug 2004 as well as the house’s other champagnes via the Krug app.

krug.com