Krug is the only brand other than Bollinger which has never been out of the top quartet in the four years we have put together this supplement. It now boasts two second places and made it to the top of the pile last year. As arguably the most distinctive brand within the LVMH group that dominates the champagne category, its unique flavour profile stands outside the pack. As one senior buyer noted recently, it’s the Marmite of champagne – no pejorative connotation implied.
Love or hate the style – our Academy is very clear about which side of the fence they stand – Krug’s careful sourcing, long ageing, complex assembly and specific production method, with fermentation taking place in small oak barrels, makes it a wine that anyone ambitious starting out in the business wants to taste. And once they have, they won’t forget the experience.
Add in a direct family connection that goes back to the origins of the house – curiously enough our top five brands all have an active family involvement in their operations – and you have a recipe for ongoing success in building and maintaining the best sort of brand profile. House director Olivier Krug is the sixth generation of the family to be involved, following his uncle Rémi and father Henri.
Bad management or poor winemaking both have the potential to damage this image, but Moët Hennessy would be foolish to allow such a jewel to suffer from either. Cellar master Eric Lebel, who has been guardian of the Krug taste since he joined in 1998, certainly still has his eye very much on the ball.
While there were many marketing initiatives, mainly around food in 2016 – Krug Ambassade’s chefs from a selection of the world’s top Michelin-starred restaurants is an ongoing programme where the food-friendly flagship Grande Cuvée is paired with innovative and challenging dishes – the quality of what’s in the bottle remains central.
Each year Krug likes to take one versatile, single, but humble ingredient that stimulates the curiosity and creativity of the chefs from Krug Ambassades around the world, encouraging them to produce imaginative, innovative dishes to enhance the experience of tasting Krug Grande Cuvée. The latest book, Poached, Scrambled or Fried?, was launched at Michael O’Hare’s The Man Behind The Curtain restaurant in Leeds last July, giving the egg a chance in the limelight after the potato in 2015.
The wine story hasn’t been hindered by the launch – out of sequence, that is after the 2003 – of the fine 2002 Krug vintage. Perhaps more significant, if less widely reported, was the news that the flagship Grande Cuvée will in future bear an edition number and the first, released during 2016, is the 163ème Édition, that is the 163rd such blend the Krugs have elaborated. As well as an opportunity to underline how long this wine has been made for, in a line all the way back to Joseph Krug in the 1840s, this is also recognition of the fact that collectors like to taste and compare different blends of Grande Cuvée.
This idea was first responded to by the house in December 2010 when a tasting for MWs in London offered three consecutive blends of Grand Cuvée that were 2000, 2001 and 2002-based. At that time, in an effort to distinguish them, it gave them names – Memoires, Finesse and Savoir-faire.
Of course this new development also opens up the commercially attractive possibility of re-releasing a more venerable blend of Grande cCuvée and charging customers a considerable premium, rather like the p2 and p3 versions of Dom Pérignon perhaps. early last year at the London launch of Krug 2002 the assembled journalists, buyers, sommeliers and restaurateurs were given the chance to taste, by way of comparison with the 2002 vintage, the 2002-based blend of Grande Cuvée that lebel bottled in 2003, also based on the 2002 harvest. it was sublime. no one will be complaining if these library releases become more widely available, but apparently, there are no plans to do so.