Even in the decadent world of Champagne, Krug holds a place of mystified awe, where it is truly in a class by itself in terms of its extraordinary craftsmanship.
To know Krug might be to love it, but the problem has been that Krug is so elite, not enough people have come to know it. The Champagne house is trying to change that perception, said its head of business development, Jessica Julmy, during her visit to Grand Cayman for the 2016 Cayman Cookout at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman in January.
“We want more people to discover the brand,” she said. “We want it to be less on that pedestal.”
Doing that is easier said than done; Krug is not like a Porsche automobile that you can drive down a boulevard and allow pedestrians to admire it as it passes by.
Faced with this challenge, Julmy said Krug went back to the roots of the house, to a notebook that was written by its founder, Joseph Krug, back in 1848. By focusing on the messages of its founder, Krug found a way of demystifying the Champagne, making it more approachable to a wider audience, even if that audience is, by default, limited in size by the price point demanded by the cost of its elaborate production method.
Joseph Krug was born in Germany and like the stereotypical German, he was obsessed with quality. His vision was to create the best quality Champagne possible, year in and year out, regardless of vintage variations caused by climatic conditions. To create the best Champagne, Krug believed he had to start with great wines that were created by great grapes grown in the best vineyards in the region. Terroir – the combination of soil, climate and surrounding environment – was critical to his plan. He then started building a reserve of wines made from single vineyards in Champagne every year. These wines became an extensive mixing palette for his prestige Champagne, Krug Grande Cuvée, a blend of more than 120 wines from 10 or more vintages that takes at least 20 years to produce.
Technically, Krug Grande Cuvée is a non-vintage Champagne because it consists of many different vintages. However, it is unlike any other non-vintage Champagne and its quality easily surpasses the vintage products of many other Champagne houses. Joseph Krug’s revolutionary approach to creating prestige Champagnes was expensive, but the richness and elegance of his product was evident to consumers and is something Julmy calls “a masterpiece in the world of Champagne.”
“Once people taste it, they tend to like it,” said Julmy. “It shows something that no other Champagne has.”
In addition to its Grande Cuvée, Krug also produces vintage Champagnes, but only in particular growing seasons, meaning that in some years, only the Grande Cuvée is produced.
Its approach to making Champagne means Krug produces limited quantities, less than 0.2 percent of all Champagne production, Julmy said.
“It’s a small maison, it’s a discreet maison,” she said. “It’s built on perception … and it does things differently.”
The Sound of Krug
In its effort to connect with a wider audience and make its Champagne more approachable and, as Julmy said, “less intense,” the House of Krug is trying different things in marketing as well. One of several Cayman Cookout events in which it was featured was called “The Sound of Krug,” in which four different Krug Champagnes were tasted outside on the patio deck while several professional musicians performed musical pieces using a variety of instruments including a guitar, a violin, drums and a saxophone.
“Few of us are music experts and yet we don’t mind giving our opinions on it, listening to it and enjoying it,” Julmy said, adding that when people are in a nice setting, listening to music, they are more likely to enjoy other experiences at the same time.
She also noted that scientists have determined that the pleasure centers in the brain for experiencing wine and music are very close.
“Krug is a lot about emotion and the same is true for music as well.”
The Champagnes in the tasting were served in white wine glasses instead of flutes to allow the aromas of the wine to fully develop. She gave an analogy that she credited to Krug’s house director, Olivier Krug.
“He says drinking Champagne in a flute is like going to an opera with earplugs,” she said.
The taste of Krug
The first Champagne tasted was the Grande Cuvée that was corked in 2013 and contained 120 different wines, the oldest from 1998 and the youngest from 2003. It is a blend of 51 percent Pinot Noir, 30 percent Chardonnay and 19 percent Pinot Meunier. Julmy said that kind of information about every bottle can be found on the company’s website by entering the Krug ID – found on the back label of the bottle – where prompted. It’s just another way Krug does things differently and with distinction.
Other Krug Champagnes tasted included the rich 2000 vintage known as “Stormy Indulgence” for the climatic chaos of the growing season; the surprisingly fresh and fruity 2003 vintage known as “Vivacious Radiance” that comes from a hot growing season; and the elegant Krug Rosé, which the winery calls “the most non-conformist of Krug Champagnes … a controversy that is positively delicious.”
After the musicians finished, Julmy fielded questions from the guests, but she preemptively answered another one.
“A lot of people ask me, ‘How long can I keep [Krug Champagne]?’” she said. “The answer is, ‘How patient are you?’”