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LUXURY CHAMPAGNES, WINES & SPIRITS

Closeries: Stéphanie Watine & Olivier Krug

Born out of the imagination of founder and CEO of Clos19, Stéphanie Watine, Closeries is all about encounters.
Closeries is a series of rare encounters between an outstanding personality and a bottle that is just as much.

In each chapter of this series, Stéphanie Watine brings to light her guest through a sensory story and an unforgettable tasting experience. Inspired conversations over exceptional wines.

The encounter with Olivier Krug is the perfect occasion to taste the 169ème edition of Grande Cuvée from Maison Krug. Our host Stéphanie Watine and her guest taste it on the terrace of Le Tout Paris.

The director of the eponymous house proudly evokes his family heritage, which spans for 6 generations. Today he is the keeper of this legacy and this exceptional bottle is the witness of it. This Grande Cuvée was imagined by Joseph Krug who wanted to give the utmost of Champagne excellence the opportunity to fully reveal itself, beyond the vintages. During this beautiful tribute to the family who founded and perpetuated the excellence of Krug champagne, discover Olivier's wise tasting advice as well as the next challenges he wants to give himself.

 

Stéphanie Watine

Hello Olivier, I would like to introduce you in a few words. You are the Director of the famous Maison de Champagne Krug, which which spans for 6 generations.
This means that more than a century ago, in 1843, your grandfather Joseph Krug created the first champagne of Maison Krug. I imagine it is a great pride for you to embody such a legacy ... Can you tell us a bit about it?

Olivier Krug

Thank you very much. I am delighted to be your guest. It is a great pride and a great honor to represent the 6th generation of Maison Krug. A chapter which is part of a long history of transmission… It all started with the dream of a man … that man was Joseph Krug my great-great-grandfather, who worked in another champagne house. He had a good position there. He was rather young, 42 years old, but back in those days, it was not an age when you would start a business. And yet one day he decided to leave everything behind to create a type of champagne that did not exist.

Stéphanie Watine

What type of champagne?

Olivier Krug

His idea was to be able to offer his customers the best possible quality every year ... which obviously depends on the climate. So, in theory, you can't offer the best every year. But he wanted to invent a champagne that would not only offer the best possible every year, but that would also offer the most generous expression of champagne. An explosion of tastes … everything a champagne can give in a single glass. He did so against the advice of his wife, who thought he had too little ambition to embark on such a risky adventure. And here we are 170 years later in front of a glass of the 169th edition of Krug Grande Cuvée. It is the 169th time the house has recreated Joseph Krug's dream.

Stéphanie Watine

Olivier, I am delighted to welcome you here at the Cheval Blanc Paris hotel.
We are on the magnificent terrace of the restaurant Le Tout Paris where Krug champagne will be on the wine list.

Olivier Krug

It is a joy to be at Le Tout Paris, where a selection of famous Krug champagnes will be represented. Maison Krug specializes in prestige vintages, and we have a great choice of different prestige vintages ... My ancestor only had two in mind. He called them very simply Cuvée 1 and Cuvée 2. Cuvée 1 became Krug Grande Cuvée, and Cuvée 2 is the one that tells the story of the year… currently we are at Krug 2006. And then Maison Krug created Krug rosé, Krug Clos du Mesnil, Krug Clos d'Ambonnay, and even Krug Collection which are vintage Krug champagnes to which we give a second life. All these magnificent champagnes will be available here... an absolutely exquisite choice for lovers of great champagnes.

Stéphanie Watine

Your childhood playground must have been the vines… but what was your personal journey to becoming the Director of Maison Krug?

Olivier Krug

I started by studying management and finance. And the very day I found my first job, my dad made me a counter-proposal ... and mentioned that I would take over from him in about fifteen years ... And it's from that day that I understood that things take time at Krug. It didn't take me long to accept his offer… He started by sending me to Japan, which was still a very small market for the house but very promising… A market which had the potential to resonate with our champagnes. A market where I could train myself by meeting clients.

I left for a year and returned two and a half years later. A few years later, Japan became by far our number one market in the world. So, this is kind of my first professional baby. Obviously, I grew professionally with my father, my grandfather, wonderful cellar masters, and members of the tasting committee to learn how to taste champagnes. Since I travel 200 days a year, when I get back I tell them everything I heard among our famous "Krug lovers" ... the good words about our champagnes, interesting experiences, old vintages finds …

And here I am almost 30 years later … I am now the Director of Maison Krug supported by an absolutely exceptional team: Margareth Henriquez, say Maggie, an exceptional cellar master, and Julie Cavil, who waited 14 years between the day she joined the House and the day when she became cellar master last year. Maison Krug is full of energy, and it is a daily joy not only to travel and meet Krug lovers, but to work here.

Stéphanie Watine

Olivier, this conversation is also a nice excuse to pair an outstanding personality with a wine bottle that is just as much. For this Closeries chapter, we have chosen the 169th edition of La Grande Cuvée from Maison Krug. Have we chosen well?

Olivier Krug

You have chosen very very well. Because this great cuvée is not only the 169th time that we have recreated my ancestor's dream, but it is above all the great cuvée that has just been launched. When each year Maison Krug reveals its cuvée, it is always a moment of excitement and plenitude among our amateurs and the great sommeliers like those of Le Tout Paris ... And it is very exciting because it takes close to 20 years to create a great cuvée. So there are 20 years of patience and work, attention, sometimes worry ... before being able to discover the result of the craftsmanship and the know-how of the great cellar masters of the Maison Krug.

Stéphanie Watine

Grande Cuvée 169ème is a blend of 146 wines from 11 different years. And bottles that stay at rest for an average of 7 years ...
These figures immediately take us somewhere else… they take us to something extraordinary, don't they? Can you tell us more?

Olivier Krug

At Maison Krug, things are often out of the ordinary with exceptional attention to detail and attention to time. It is often said in Maison Krug that we must give time to create the unforgettable.
And that's what we do every day.

Stéphanie Watine

Now it's time for the tasting … It is quite a ritual to discover such a champagne. Tell us all about it Olivier.

Olivier Krug

First of all, to serve a great champagne, you have to think about the glass. You need a good glass. I would like people who will read this interview to know that the pretty narrow flutes that they may have received at their wedding are not the best friends of great champagne.

Great champagne requires a glass that allows it to reveal its aromas … to concentrate them at the top of the glass ... the flute does not allow to reveal these aromas. So not only do you need a large glass, but you must not serve the large champagne too cold. If served too cold, it will stay ""closed"", it will not fully express itself. Therefore, I recommend serving our champagnes at 9 or 10 deg. C., then letting them gradually reveal themselves in the glass.

This is what has just been done in front of us.
And when you bring your nose a few centimeters from the glass, you get immediately captivated by aromas of white fruits, rich aromas … a hint of vanilla ... I won't describe everything but you get captivated by a lot of richness and complexity that stimulates curiosity. Let's take a sip of this champagne, shall we?

Stéphanie Watine

Perfect!

Olivier Krug

A sip that makes it seem full on the palate ... It's very full, very smooth, fruity, rich. Then there is gradually this very pretty burst of flavours which is revealed by the "little bubbles". These little bubbles which explode on the tongue, on the palate, and allow all the aromas to be fully revealed. Krug Grande Cuvée tries to offer the most generous expression of champagne in each sip. And that's kind of what we have here.

If we were ten people to taste this champagne, we would probably have different words to describe it. We would find citrus notes, toasted notes, spices, fresh fruits, dried fruits… The discussion would keep going on... Because what is absolutely fascinating about this glass of champagne is its length on the palate. I like to ask people who taste Krug for the first time to close their eyes after the first sip and only reopen them when they don't taste anything anymore. It’s great fun watching people close their eyes for long minutes to savour all that this champagne has to reveal.

Stéphanie Watine

Fantastic! In terms of food and wine pairing, would you have a suggestion or recommendation for us if we ever have the chance to taste a Cuvée 169ème?

Olivier Krug

Krug Grande Cuvée is one of the most versatile champagnes there is. It's exciting … it allows foodies to explore lots of different pairings. I also love to interact with chef friends. For example, I recently met with Arnaud Donckele. We finish or we open a bottle and we play with aromas, flavours, ingredients .... And frankly, with Krug Grande Cuvée, we can go towards things that are absolutely obvious, harmonious, soft, or pairings with a lot of contrasts. We can bring in spices, sour things, some more crisp things ... and savour the contrast of explosion of flavours.

Stéphanie Watine

Now let's go back to Maison Krug. We know its story well, but what about your projects? What are your main priorities for the years to come?

Olivier Krug

Maison Krug aims to offer a tribute to the Champagne region every year ... a space for each of our terroirs to express. We are facing a terrible but fascinating challenge, which is climate change. Every year now, even a few days before the harvest, it has become difficult to predict the quality of the harvest. The last two years have been extremely contrasted. 2020 was hot, dry, excessive ... with the earliest harvest in history happening mid-August. And then this year … 2021 is full of water, full of disease ... In a region where the ecological transition is happening very, very fast ... the winegrowers have to face enormous challenges. Winegrowers have now returned to ancestral methods to take care of the vines. Our challenge is to be even closer to them, to help them improve, to support them in this ecological transition. These are efforts that are complicated to undertake for people who sell grapes. At Maison Krug, we have created a "sustainable viticulture collective" to help them and guide them. We did this as a test and nearly 80% of our winegrowers joined us within the last 3 years. We know they will all be joining us in the coming months.
We also have a huge project called Joseph 2.0. It was the dream of Julie Cavil, our cellar master. If Joseph Krug came back today, with these climate changes, with our obligations to be closer and closer to the vines, the winegrowers, and the grapes ... what would he create? Therefore, we are in the process of creating a new space to preserve our wines and to vinify in Ambonnay. As if one of the most beautiful orchestras in the world finally decided to afford a dream concert hall for its musicians.

Stéphanie Watine

A more personal question to close this interview, if I may ...
I know you are a big fan of Japan, do you have any Japanese taste memories to share with us? A food and wine pairing stuck in your mind?

Olivier Krug

I have several memorable pairings in mind… In 1991, against the advice of all my Japanese colleagues, I took a few cold bottles of Krug and I went to a restaurant called Kitcho… It was the best tradional Japanese restaurant in Tokyo at the time. I offered them to have a meal entirely paired with champagne. So, in a traditional place like that, dedicated to Japanese cuisine and sake… Bringing champagne... And it was a revelation for everyone. I believe this event was the first time champagne was ever combined with Japanese cuisine. Now 30 years later ... I think it was perhaps a turning point for champagne wines ... even beyond Maison Krug.

Stéphanie Watine

What type of restaurant was it?

Olivier Krug

It was very traditional ... The traditional imperial kaiseki-ryōri restaurant. I have a very special memory of a monkfish liver wrapped in palm leaves with soya, and grilled on a small barbecue in the middle of the table. We had it with a Krug rosé… This memory is still mouth-watering right now!

Stéphanie Watine

Amazing! Olivier Krug thank you for taking part in this tasting. It has been a great pleasure to discuss with you and discover this extraordinary La Grande Cuvée 169ème.

Olivier Krug

Thank you for your invitation. And thank you to our readers ... Dear readers, please feel free to share your tasting comments and your love for Krug ...
And don't hesitate to come see us one day at Maison Krug in Reims.

Stéphanie Watine

Thanks again Olivier!