30 November 2017 As it is announced that Maggie Henriquez is to take over from Jean-Guillaume Prats as head of LVMH's still wine division, we thought we would republish the account below of some time spent last year with this dynamic force in wine in her role as head of Krug (which she is to retain – she told me this morning that Krug is 'engraved on my heart' and I believe her). The division for which she will be responsible was recently expanded by a 60% stake in cult winery Colgin, something to add to Alder's 2013 account of Foreign investment in Napa. Prats is to take over Christophe Salin's management role in the Lafite empire, thereby taking him back to his Bordeaux base, where for long he was associated with the property across the road from Lafite, Ch Cos d'Estournel (see this 2009 video). He will presumably be glad to be spending slightly less time in the air. From next year Prats will be working with Saskia de Rothschild, who has been studying oenology and is to take over from her father Baron Eric. All change!
25 March 2016 As I will be writing tomorrow in Krug's unusual ethos, there is something very special about the team responsible for Krug champagne. The public face of the house, now financed by LVMH but still very much represented by a Krug, is boyish Olivier, the late Henri Krug’s son. He is a genuine wine enthusiast and rather reminds me of the late Gérard Jaboulet, who took his curiosity and good humour around the world representing Paul Jaboulet Aîné. Olivier cut his teeth working in Japan and still loves that country where Krug lovers concentrate on Grande Cuvée rather than vintage Krug. ‘They haven’t even moved on to our 2003!’ he told me.
The 10 tasting notes below are the result of a short visit to Krug in January over a dinner and working session to present Krug 2002 in the morning. As close followers of the fortunes of Champagne know, much of the dynamism in the region today comes from the ranks of ambitious young growers represented at the series of April tastings about which Tim Hall of Scala Wine reported in Champagne's young ones strut their stuff last year (and will again this year). There is inevitably some tension between these small-scale producers and the much bigger and usually much older houses. Over our dinner, I was particularly struck by how thrilled Olivier Krug professed himself to be, having been the only representative of a maison to have been included with a group of favoured growers at La Fête de Champagne in New York.
The theme of the (many) wines for our dinner was the 2000 vintage – both wines carrying that vintage date and the Grande Cuvée based on it. Note the importance of glass shape in the tasting notes below! (Olivier is waging war on tall champagne flûtes, frequently employing the hashtage ##nofluteforagreatchampagne on Twitter.) As always, it was instructive to compare the vintage-dated wine and the non-vintage blend. Krug quite rightly insist that one is not better than the other – they are simply the two complementary halves of what Krug produces. Vintage-dated champagne comprises only about 10% of their production or, as Olivier puts it, ‘about the same as DRC in terms of volume!’ In future they are going to try to have two vintages available concurrently, on the basis that ‘it’s much more interesting for both consumers and sommeliers’. (Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to afford the comparative tasting?) Look out for my report of a recent blind tasting of every Krug vintage from 1988 – JR November 2017
Krug pride themselves on being particularly closely attuned to their consumers, thanks nowadays to Olivier’s obsession with social media – although it is not that easy to operate as a communicative vintner in the mother of all wine-producing countries thanks to the Loi Evin and its many offshoots controlling the promulgation of the demon drink.
Apart from Olivier and the winemaking team, the other driving force behind Krug is CEO Maggie Henriquez, who arrived in 2009 from LVMH’s Terrazas de los Andes in Argentina. She has instituted many innovations, including longer ageing, both before and after disgorgement, and some novel IT applications. So long is Grande Cuvée aged before release that she is yet to taste a Grande Cuvée based on wine made during her tenure.
She was, however, able to taste extensively with Henri Krug, who was for so many years responsible for making all Krug champagne. A favourite exercise is to show Krug's Clos du Mesnil 1999, a wine that has so far not been released because the tasting committee cannot sanction it as being up to Krug standards. Apparently they keep on tasting it as it evolves, and continually experiment with the dosage, but it remains taking up cellar space for now. We tasted it in the Krug tasting room and, in the Krug style, it is certainly denser than most champagnes, but lacks real lift on the nose and is a bit astringent on the finish. Julie Cavil, heiress-apparent to chef de caves Eric Lebel, criticises it for being too light, too simple and too short. For now.
While admiring such expensive fastidiousness, there is one novelty I am not so sure of, but perhaps that is my fault: the house’s appointment of a piece of music to accompany each wine. An Italian harpist supposedly represents Krug 2003 while American jazz musician Gregory Porter came to Reims and has dedicated an a capella piece to Krug 2002.
In the office the morning after the dinner, Eric Lebel looked up the conditions of the 2000 vintage and reported that the excellent start had been disturbed in July by storms on the Montagne de Reims, and on 16 August focused on Le Mesnil-sur-Oger on the Côte des Blancs. There was a lot of hail, but the fruit that was harvested was particularly generous with a good quantity of healthy grapes. ‘The 2000 is more natural and more in the Krug style than the 2003', he reported. See Krug 2002 arrives at last for more detail on the latest Krug vintage.
The 10 wines below are listed in the order they were served, the first six, mainly based on the 2000 harvest, over the dinner at L'Assiette Champenoise described already on this site by Nick, the rest tasted at Krug's offices in Reims when the new Krug 2002 was unveiled, as listed on the blackboard in the tasting room (top right).
AT THE OFFICE