The very First Luxury Champagne House
By Clifton M. Thuma
They say that you can tell where you stand in British society by the brand of champagne served by the Queen. If you are served Maison Krug, you have made it to the top. Champagne Krug was served at Prince Charles and Lady Diana’s wedding. Krug is the best – and always has been.
More than 160 years ago, one Joseph Krug quit his job at a large champagne establishment. He had a passion: to make only the very best champagne. And so he started his own champagne house – Maison Krug – based in the historic city of Reims in France’s Champagne region. The visionary’s philosophy was to take traditional champagne blending far beyond the bounds of what was common in the 19th century. Krug draws from its long-cellared champagne wines to create its great Grande Cuvee. Stocks going back to 1991 are available to the winemaker’s ‘palette’ for blending. The family, now in its sixth generation of overseeing the process, has been committed to the highest quality since the founding in 1843.
There are three primary reasons for Krug’s quality: the best vineyards, careful and talented wine blending, and extraordinary ‘library’ of wines held in cellar. Its current president, Mdm. Maggie Henriquez, shared with South Florida Opulence her thoughts about the prestigious house. She came as it was in a transition from an old-guard to a new one.
“I arrived in 2009 with a long history in the wine industry,” Henriquez said. “We took years in the communication from one generation to another…which is important to sustain the quality… to know the wine. Everything has changed but nothing has changed.”
Krug owns 25 hectares in 40 parcels of prime vineyards. Each vineyard is vinified on its own. They also have long-term contracts with some of the best-rated, privately held vineyards. A feature that sets Krug apart from its peers is that after grapes are picked – entirely by hand – the initial fermentation of every base wine is stored in small porous oak barrels that allow a slow micro-oxygenation. Each vineyard’s portion is isolated until blending, giving winemakers more than 100 batches to blend for the Grande Cuvee, their signature wine. In exceptionally good years, there is a ‘Vintage’ labeling. Maison Krug’s two finest vineyards are sold under their own label: Clos de Mesnil — a white of only chardonnay — and Clos d’Ambonnay — white of only pinot noir. In a good year, they might also make a rosé champagne from just pinot noir to which 10 percent still red wine is added. All are cellared for six years or more.
“And yes one thing more! Tell your readers NOT to use the flute glass. This is terrible for drinking champagne,” said Henriquez. “There is no bouquet, no smell. A regular white wine glass is ideal. Drinking a champagne out of a flute is like wearing earplugs at the opera!”
This writer once attended a tasting hosted by M. Henri Krug, father of the present family steward, Olivier. M. Henri was asked about the vintage versus the Grande Cuvee. He smiled and told a story of his father who was once asked: “Of which wine are you more proud, the Vintage or the Grande Cuvee?” Immediately, he replied, “The Grande Cuvee.”
“But the Vintage sells for a higher price Monsieur?”
“Ah yes… but then you must share the credit with God.”