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Don’t get too technical with Champagne, says Olivier Krug

Olivier Krug is resolute in his defence of the Champagne house's refusal to release vintages, and warns against turning drinkers off by overloading them with technical information.

Krug, which was founded in 1843 by Joseph Krug and today sits under the wing of Moet Hennessy within French billionaire Bernard Arnault’s luxury empire, has something of a cultish following.

It accounts for a tiny proportion of global Champagne sales, yet its name often appears whenever anyone wealthy enough decides to have a good night.

Take this past week, when two rival tables at a top club in London’s Mayfair area decided to go head-to-head on orders, each running up bar tabs in excess of GBP60,000. Krug featured alongside Dom Perignon and Cristal.

At several high-end venues, including the Goring Hotel in London, Krug is available by the glass, poured from Magnums.

For Olivier Krug, a sixth generation family member, an element of enjoying Champagne has been put at risk by a generation too immersed in technical details.

‘I do not mean that we are not paying attention to where the wine is coming from,’ Krug said, detailing the house’s meticulous policy of sourcing grapes from individual plots, and its complex blending process for Grande Cuvee.

But, he said, there was an earlier generation that wanted to drink Champagne as a social pleasure. More recently, ‘we have been through a generation influenced by technique and formulas, and they have lost connection with their audience’.

Most Champagne drinkers, he said, don’t want to hear about the ins and outs of malolactic fermentation, although he accepted this kind of in-depth talk has its place among specialists. Krug’s own ID codes on bottles, a practice it began in 2012, allows interested drinkers to examine the make-up of their wines online.

At the time that was announced, several critics highlighted the house’s departure from the line that Krug Grande Cuvee showed consistency from year to year.

‘Grande Cuvee is never the same [from release to release],’ Krug said. ‘Most Krug lovers age their Cuvees at home,’ he said, adding that the codes mean ‘people will start playing with the grande cuvee’ to notice differences.

During the conversation, Krug also reiterated the company’s refusal to release regular vintages. As some readers may be aware, 2000 was the last vintage to be marked by Krug on bottles.

‘We will only make a vintage when we believe that there is enough quality,’ Krug said. Putting wines into the reserve for use in future Grandes Cuvees will always take precedence.

A few bottles of one stellar Champagne vintage, 1928, remain in the Krug cellar – albeit only because Nazi leaders during World War Two were fobbed off with lower quality bottles.

In 2009, the release of one broke a world record for Champagne, but Krug remained coy on whether any more would be placed for sale in the near future.

Written by Chris Mercer

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