Fresh off a plane, yet characteristically exuberant, sixth-generation Olivier Krug of the Krug champagne founding family is holding court in a Sentosa penthouse. In his hand is a glass of the 2002 and he is leading a select few in one of the first tastings of what many regard as one of the greatest champagne vintages in recent years.
While any other 2002 vintage would, by current practices, be a collectible having long disappeared from shelves, Krug’s 2002 has only just been released into the market — after a more than 13 years of slumber in the House’s cellars to gain in harmony and finesse.
As if the wait wasn’t anticipation enough, Olivier is teasing his guests, making them refrain from giving the champagne a good swish in the mouth for a couple of minutes longer. Because, first, the strains of jazz singer Gregory Porter (winner for best jazz vocal album at the 2014 Grammy Awards), has to pour out of the invisible in-wall speakers, to heighten the tasting experience.
But frankly, it doesn’t take too many sips for us to come to this conclusion: When Mother Nature and winemaker are in perfect collusion, no music, however pleasing, is necessary.
You’re in Singapore for the release of the Krug 2002 and the Grande Cuvée 158th edition (also created from the 2002 harvest) and here we are listening to a recording of Gregory Porter singing about the 2002 vintage. What’s the connection here?
The story between Gregory Porter and Krug is above all the story of an amazing encounter, which started in November 2015. Gregory Porter has a strong personality, he is a true hedonist, a generous man. When I listen to his song No Love Dying, I feel like there is no one element overpowering another. And this is what then resonates for Krug 2002: A joyous harmony of fruit. And I am not the only one to say so!
Tell us more about this Music Pairing feature you have, which essentially matches tracks from recording artists with a particular champagne. Will music really make my champagne more enjoyable?
Findings have shown that the relationship between sound and the palate is backed by scientific principles. So indeed, music can heighten the pleasure experience, it stimulates the brain so you taste differently. This is why we’ve started working with Charles Spence, a professor of experimental psychology from Oxford University in England.
Because Krug champagnes are known for its myriad of flavours and aromas, which bring out strong emotions, we’re convinced it makes sense to invite musicians to express their own emotions through music. Music and Krug champagne together are direct pathways to emotions. I’m sure you wouldn’t be surprised if I told you that my great-great-great-grandfather Joseph Krug (founder of the House of Krug in 1843) believed that champagne is an experience of pleasure above all else.
Which of the musicians or songs resonate most with you?
The music collaborators we work with are all Krug lovers. They are people seeking enjoyment. They want to live an unforgettable journey. But the experience with Gregory Porter was the most intense. Probably because he started using words to describe our champagnes that are more or less the ones we would use during our technical tastings: Balance, elegance, length, freshness... It proves that you do not have to be an expert to appreciate Krug champagnes.
For those who haven’t tasted the Krug 2002 while listening to Gregory Porter’s No Love Dying, describe how the climatic conditions stylistically influenced the resulting champagne.
2002 was a clement and generous year. Each plot was so expressive that it seemed pre-blended. The work of our winemaking team was hence to temper the outstanding voices to come up with a very elegant and balanced champagne that is an ode to nature.
Is there a particular vintage that holds the most meaning for you?
A vintage tells the story of that year as captured by Krug. So each one has a different character and it’s hard to say which one resonates more to me. Nevertheless, I remember very well the first vintage I presented with my father in 1989 in London, it was Krug 1982. It was so fresh when we released it and it’s still beautiful today. This vintage represents my beginnings at the House and has strong memories for me.
The champagne making process is diverse — from farming and tending the vineyards to even collaborating with musicians and meeting with consumers. What’s your favourite aspect in the process?
For Krug, the notion of connection is crucial. It all started in 1843 with Joseph Krug, who was very respectful of the work of the growers he was getting his supply from. Krug has a long-standing and truly personal relationship with many of the wonderful growers in the Champagne region who share our philosophy and commitment to the individuality of each plot. I believe it is because we consider every plot as an individual, where each wine can bring its own individual character to a potential blend, which allows Krug to consistently create such Champagnes. Consequently, I have to admit that I am at my best when I am surrounded by Krug Lovers; I get the energy from their passion, comparable to mine for Krug.
Krug, the brand and champagne, represents your family history. Yet it is owned by LVMH. What is it like knowing that the brand can exist with or without its founding family?
I may be the sixth generation of the family, but there was never any pressure on me to join the company when I was growing up. Yes, there is a tradition, but for me, it has always been about sharing in the passion. Krug has flourished under LVMH for several years now, and our daily work today is also about transmission — to keep being true to the vision of my great-great-great-grandfather.