Bubbly with tradition

FRANCE - The annual blending of the prestigious Krug champagne follows no recipe, just taste and memory passed down from generations since 1843.

Carrying on the tradition is Mr Olivier Krug, 47, who is the sixth generation of the Krug family. He grew up beside the Krug cellars in Reims, France.

Krug champagne is best known for producing its signature Krug Grande Cuvee, which is a blend of premium vintages. Other wines include the Krug Collection, Krug Rose and Krug Vintage.

The House of Krug was founded in 1843 by Mr Johann-Joseph Krug, the great- great-great grandfather of Mr Olivier Krug. It was acquired by French luxury goods conglomerate Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy in 1999.

Mr Krug, the eldest of five children, has been with the brand since 1989. He was in Asia recently and hosted trade dinners here.

On making champagne, he says: "Since the base year and its challenges are always different, there cannot be a fixed formula. Every year has a different blend, different numbers of chosen elements and vintages.

"For example, the most recent blend based on the 2012 crop will be available in 2020. It is based on 198 elements coming from no fewer than 11 different years, the oldest one being 1996.

"When this bottle is on the market, people will know that the oldest element is 24 years old."

Over a period of five months from autumn to winter, the tasting committee meets two to three times a week for "rich and lively" wine tastings.

Besides Mr Krug, the committee includes Mr Laurent Halbin, head of winemaking operations, and Ms Maggie Henriquez, president and chief executive officer of Krug.

At each session, they do a blind tasting of between 15 and 18 samples. At the end, once a blend has been decided, the house gets organised for bottling. It takes place annually between April and May.

The champagne is fermented in old oak casks, with wood from the forests of Hautes Futaies in the centre of France - reputed for its fine grain.

Mr Krug, a father of four, is also responsible for the brand's development overseas - with a 90 per cent export ratio - particularly to Japan, which he counts as its biggest market, making up 20 per cent of its sales.

He says: "Japan was then a small market, but there were signs of passionate curiosity of Krug. My dad sent me to Japan for a few months, but I stayed for more than two years. In less than 20 years, it has become our biggest market."

Krug owns 35 per cent of its vineyards - enough to supply a third of its needs - which is less than 0.15 per cent of the world's champagne production. The remainder comes from growers who dedicate specific plots to Krug.

On his enviable job, Mr Krug says: "I have a very rare and special job that allows me to cover the smallest vineyard plot in Champagne to the latest fashionable champagne bar in Singapore.

"I can tell all Krug lovers how their Krug is born, and I can share with growers how their obsession for detail can deliver so much pleasure."

euniceq@sph.com.sg

Purchase this article for republication.

SERVICES