Established back in the 19th century, Krug Champagne is located at the heart of the French region of Champagne near the city of Reims. Krug expresses the true essence of champagne culture with its consistent commitment to the quality of every individual vintage and respect for the individuality of its champagnes. The house prides itself in creating uniquely harmonious champagne flavours carefully balanced for the pleasure of the customers.
Olivier Krug is currently the director of the house of Krug, representing the sixth generation of the Krug family. We spoke to him about the family values in the winemaking business, the importance of an artistic outlook in his line of work and the regional expansion of the Krug champagne.
Transmission of values
Olivier recalls that he was interested in the business of champagne-making since he was a young child. He explains that, even though he was not allowed to enter the cellar where his father worked, as an energetic boy, he used to sneak in to feel the beautiful aromas of the wine. “For me, it was like magic. I knew as a little kid that one day I wanted to join,” – he adds.
“I knew very early that champagne was a part of our life, but it was something everyone was very respectful of. On every special occasion, my dad was opening champagne and he was the only one to touch the bottle,” – Olivier recalls his early experiences with champagnes of Krug.
To him, his father was the one who stimulated Olivier’s interest in the family business and inspired him to join Krug Champagne as he graduated from university with a degree in business: “I was 23 years old when my father came to me and said: “I am going to retire in 15 years, so I only have 15 years to train the team that you will be taking over.” And it was the first time he ever mentioned me joining Krug Champagne.”
Olivier goes on to explain that, apart from the experience and craftsmanship, one thing that is deeply valued at the house of Krug is transmission, ensuring that the traditions, skills, and ideas on which the Krug brand is founded are passed on.
“Every time someone joins Krug, the mindset is about transmitting. It may be something that I’m doing for many years, but the day I pass it on to someone, they will already be projecting themselves in the next step.”
Bringing Krug to Japan
According to Olivier, the first challenge he was given as he started his job was introducing Krug Champagne to the Japanese market. His father thought that the best way for his son to train would be going away to a new and challenging market, as the family brand was still majorly unknown in Asia.
“I did not speak Japanese. The champagne market was very small and I was working for the distributor. The beginning was challenging because no one was really interested in Krug. It was the era of cognac in Japan. It was not the champagne time,” – he recalls, adding: “I made a list of the top a hundred restaurants in Japan and decided to visit each of them at least twice to make connections.”
Though success did not come immediately, Olivier says, but, thanks to his energy and perseverance, he managed to start building small points of distribution in Japan. “We started with love, and people fell in love with Krug immediately. We had Krug lovers from day one,” – he says.
He adds that, in his experience, “in Japan, more than elsewhere, you have to be extremely passionate”. The passion that Olivier was able to bring to the Japanese chefs was what set him and the brand of Krug apart from the competitors.
“People loved the taste of Krug because it has all kinds of aromas you could expect but it’s also very harmonious. You have these tiny bubbles; they play with your palate and on your tongue. They are elegant, so Krug is a taste for the Japanese people.”
“Krug is very modern and the taste is very accessible. You don’t need to be an expert to understand our champagne. The first sip, you may be a bit intimidated. The second sip is a “wow”, as you get to experience this firework of aroma,” – Olivier continues, describing the approach he used when promoting the company in Japan.
The harmony of Krug champagnes
To Olivier and his family, music has long been the inspiration for creating outstanding champagnes at Krug. It was something that his father taught him, saying to Olivier on the first day of work for the company: “This job is equivalent to that of a music conductor. Krug is like an orchestra where I have to sit every year, with all the different kinds of musicians. And every year I go to the music school and I listen to the new generation.”
Music has inspired Olivier to create something known as “Music Pairings” in the project called Krug Echoes. Instead of pairing champagne with food, they invite musicians who play the music that, in their opinion, matches the chosen champagne.
The idea was born in 2013 when Olivier travelled to Hong Kong and met with the head of the local orchestra and asked him to pair different champagnes with different music. “I remember that we started with Krug 2000 vintage, and he said: ‘This is my pairing’,” – Olivier adds.
Olivier concludes, saying that with music and champagne, “there is a dialogue between the two”, which allows the guests at Krug Echoes to truly experience the pleasure of drinking the Krug champagnes in a way that is completely revolutionary.