Pure Krug force

Olivier Krug (Photo: Krug Champagne)

Olivier Krug is a force of nature. I never knew ‘Champagne Charlie’ Heidsieck, but he must have been a bit like Olivier. As he says: “My job is to talk.” And talk, he does.

I have heard the story of the lost-and-found 1848 notebook of the founder, Joseph Krug, several times, but it never bores. It’s the story of how Joseph left his employer Jacquesson, to set up his own ‘maison’ because he wanted to give the world a great wine every year, whether it was a declared vintage or not. As Olivier says, he understood he was in the pleasure business, and he couldn’t see why his customers shouldn’t have pleasure some years but not others. That was the genesis of the Krug Grand Cuvée, the first luxury non-vintage Champagne (or multi-vintage, as Krug prefer to call it).

In the notebook, Joseph describes his plan to create two cuvées each year, the first – or Cuvée No. 1 – would be a wine blended from several vintages; the second – Cuvée No. 2 – would be a single-vintage wine, if the season permitted. The radical thing was that they would be of equal quality. Hence today we have the great Krug Grande Cuvée, a multi-vintage wine that costs AUD $300 a bottle.

Olivier was launching the latest Grande Cuvée, which is the 163rd Edition. It has this on the label, and it means it’s the 163rd time the house of Krug has blended this wine, or, as Olivier puts it: “The 163rd time we’ve re-created the dream of Joseph Krug”.

As well as the Grand Cuvée edition number, Krug gives another service to its followers. Every bottle of Krug Champagne (not only Grande Cuvée) bears an individual identity number, which allows the buyer to trace its provenance with the help of the Krug website. You will find not only the vital statistics such as the proportions of grape varieties in the blend, and if it’s a non-vintage, the oldest and youngest wines in the blend (for bottle number 116002 the youngest is 2007, the oldest 1990), but also food and music matching recommendations. Yes, Krug has asked various musicians to nominate a piece of music they felt matched the wines.

There is also cellar-master Eric Lebel’s comments, tasting notes and useful storing and serving suggestions. The latest development: these details can be quickly accessed on smart phones using iTunes or the equivalent Google app.

And my verdict on Krug Grand Cuvée 163rd Edition? Magnificent. Krug truly does begin where most other houses finish.

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