“For me, Krug is something more than champagne. It is a term that stands for artistry, tradition, craftsmanship, and moments of maximum enjoyment.”
These are the opening lines of the description of Krug in Richard Juhlin’s book, A Scent of Champagne: 8,000 Champagnes Tasted and Rated. The quote perfectly encapsulates the production philosophy of Krug. This Reims-based house has only made prestige cuvees since it was founded in 1843. The art of champagne blending is taken to a new level of mastery here, where it is not uncommon for chef de cave Eric Lebel, alongside the Krug family, to fashion their champagnes from upwards of 400 individual wines. The wines are both intricately complex and elaborately nuanced. They deliver pure pleasure.
5 Rue Coquebert, Reims. +33 3 26 84 44 20
The wines of Krug have the power to provide champagne drinkers some of the most scintillating experiences of a lifetime. The Queen Mother was such a fan that she famously smuggled a case of Krug into hospital at the age of 97.
These wines defy adequate description and simply must be enjoyed to be fully understood. The complexity and depth is matched only by the unambiguous nuance evident in each wine. Joseph Johann Krug, founder of the house, would be proud to know that his desire to make wines that provide “pure pleasure” has been outstandingly achieved.
Krug Grande Cuvee
This remarkable wine is the epitome of the Krug philosophy and the actualization of the skillful blending for which they are so well known. The blend consists of over 100 base wines from all the individual parcels of land, of all three varieties and spanning 6-10 vintages. With 30-50% reserve wines, the Grande Cuvee truly represents a full expression of Champagne.
The vintage Krug is a blend of all three varieties, including Meunier, which many houses exclude from their top cuvees. Instead of sticking to a particular blueprint each year, the vintage wine is an honest representation of the vintage which, after ten years in the cellars, will tell a unique tale upon release. The wine is fermented in 205 litre barrels and aged in stainless steel.
Krug Clos du Mesnil
100% Grand Cru Chardonnay. A single-vineyard vintage blanc de blancs from one of the most exclusive sites in Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, owned and lovingly tended by Krug. It is expressive of both the site and the producer, and is “the world’s premier wine” according to Richard Juhlin.
Krug Clos d’Ambonnay
100% Grand Cru Pinot Noir. As the Clos du Mesnil, this too is a single-vineyard, single-vintage wine, but from the walled vineyard Clos d’Ambonnay, in the Montagne de Reims. This wine is both unique and rare, partly because of the minuscule size of the vineyard (0.68ha), and partly due to the price tag in the thousands of dollars. However, the cost does not seem to deter sales as the small production (usually around 3000 bottles) is always rapidly snapped up.
Another impressively blended wine, but made from a more limited selection than the Grande Cuvee – about 40-50% base wines combined with 30-35% reserve wines from up to five different vintages. Around 8-10% of red wine from grapes in Ay completes the assemblage. The wine ages for 5-6 years in the cellars before release. While this rose also possesses the Krug character, it is made to be light, soft and delicate.
Of German descent, Joseph Johann Krug, found his home and his passion in Champagne. He worked at Jacquesson for several years, where he was also a partner in the firm for a time. Joseph had a grand vision and was determined to create exceptional, top-of-the-line wines that would reinvent luxury and offer uncompromising class. To this end, he founded the house of Krug in 1843.
For Joseph, the soul of champagne is ‘pleasure itself’, and from the beginning it has been the first and only house whose champagnes are all prestige cuvees – undeniable and unparalleled in their excellence.
Brothers Henri and Remi Krug represented the 5th generation of the family to oversee the business, with Henri taking responsibility for the wines, and Remi dealing with business and marketing decisions. Henri became famous for devoting as much care to the non-vintage Krug wines as the more prestigious vintage cuvees. When he retired as director of the house in 2007, he passed the baton to his son, Olivier.
To their credit, the Krug family have never been tied to tradition for its own sake. They are constantly reinventing and redefining quality, to preserve the significance of the wines and raise the standards ever higher.
In 1971, the Krugs took an unexpected path in their approach to winemaking. With the simple desire to acquire a small parcel of exceptional grand cru Chardonnay in their favorite village, Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, to bolster the Grande Cuvee, they purchased just 2 hectares of a walled vineyard. Before long the enthusiasm for this holding led to a fresh perspective, and the decision to make a single-varietal, single-vineyard cuvee. In order to get the best fruit from the site, it meant replanting new vines. So the first release of the Krug Clos du Mesnil, the 1979, did not hit the market until 1986.
Similarly, in the mid 1990s, Krug obtained an even smaller plot of land, just 0.68 hectares, in another spectacular enclosed vineyard, this time in the Montagne de Reims, at the Clos d’Ambonnay. Before this time, they had been buying grapes from this special site so they were well aware of the exceptional quality of the fruit. Once the land belonged to the Krug stable, they set out to produce a superlative representation of single-vineyard Pinot Noir. The 1995 vintage of Krug Clos d’Ambonnay was released in 2008, and Michael Edwards refers to the wine as “a racehorse of a champagne”.
Today, Krug belongs to the LVMH group, but operates independently.
Approximately one-third of Krug’s total production comes from their 20 hectares of estate vineyards. These are split evenly between the Cote des Blancs and Montagne de Reims. The rest of the supply comes from growers with whom the family has had a relationship for decades, even centuries in some cases. Eric Lebel, Krug’s chef de cave, is responsible for the final amalgamation of the range.
Each parcel of grapes is vinified separately and fermented in 205 litre oak barrels. The micro-oxygenation provided by the oak is desirable at this stage, but not during ageing. The Krug position on whether or not the wines should undergo malolactic is very relaxed: if it happens, they won’t prevent it. Olivier Krug, speaking to Peter Liem about malo, said, “We don’t care, every wine does what it wants, in its own time and in its own way.” What they do care about very much is using grapes that express the distinct attributes and individual facets of their particular parcel of land.
The family have always been active advocates for the Pinot Meunier grape. Thought of by many as the ‘third-wheel’ of champagne varieties, to the Krugs Meunier offers a generous roundness and supple fruitiness to the blend.
The Krug wines are prized and respected because of the talented blending that creates each one. Each year they make 200-250 base wines from the individual parcels. These are then tasted, along with roughly another 150 reserve wines (Krug are known for their immense collection of reserve wines). Finally, the cuvees are assembled. About the blending process, Olivier explains, “There are no rules - it’s a completely artistic process.”