Krug is one of the most sought-after champagne brands, still managed by descendants of the original family. With the launch of the latest Krug vintage, sixth-generation director Olivier Krug talks to Luxury London about family and why he never drinks from a flute
As one of the champagne industry’s most influential ambassadors, you might expect an interview with Olivier Krug to be a decidedly formal affair. Yet, the most famous name in the business is disarmingly relaxed and jovial as we settle into the Moët Hennessy offices in Victoria. The director has even brought along some bottles to taste, ensuring that the interview starts on a high.
“The truth is that I absolutely hate champagne flutes,” is Olivier’s surprising opener, insisting that we sip our bubbles from generously proportioned wine glasses. This stops me in my tracks. After all, the flute is the universally accepted vessel for sparkling wine everywhere.
“Drinking champagne in a flute is like listening to an opera with earplugs in. It is absurd and old-fashioned. A white wine glass is the right choice for drinking champagne,” the 50-year-old insists.
An extraordinary statement from a man born in Champagne, but then again Krug is no ordinary company. For a start, it pioneered the ID concept, whereby each bottle of Krug’s Grande Cuvée is equipped with a code that, when entered on their website, reveals the wine’s full technical data, including year of base wine, the grape composition and the number of reserve wines.
“Drinking champagne in a flute is like listening to an opera with earplugs in. It is absurd and old-fashioned. A white wine glass is the right choice for drinking champagne”
“The world changed and we realised Krug had to change with it,” Olivier says. “Today, Krug has been called the most transparent of champagne houses, which I’m very proud of. For, let’s face it, modern consumers won’t pay for a luxury product that they don’t understand.”
He continues: “Luxury has changed. Today’s consumers want authenticity, roots, truth and transparency. We live in a different world, an era of information, and we need to be open about our products.”
Krug, of course, is a familiar sight in restaurants across Mayfair, having produced superlative vintages for more than a century. It was founded in 1843 by Joseph Krug, after he cut his teeth at rival house Jacquesson. Joseph worked with his son Paul in the 1860s to develop a prestige champagne like no other by growing an extensive mixing palette of vintage reserve wines, and the house has faultlessly stuck to its quality principles.
Since the founders began in the 19th century, there has always been a father-and-son team at the helm, passing on their knowledge and pushing the envelope for higher quality. However, in 1999, Olivier’s now deceased father Henri and his uncle Rémi sold the house to luxury goods group LVMH, though it retained its independence and family interest. But the question remains – does Olivier regret losing complete family control?
“Not at all,” comes the quick-as-a-flash reply. “We are far stronger as part of a larger family of houses. Being part of LVMH gives us added security, without sacrificing the vision and philosophy of our founder Joseph Krug.”
Today, Olivier remains an integral part of that destiny, as Krug’s director, brand ambassador and spokesperson for the industry at large.
It’s a role that Olivier has slipped into with ease, having spent most of his life surrounded by wine and champagne. Born in Reims, Oliver completed a business and financial management degree, before heading to the UK in the late 1980s to immerse himself in the wine trade. “The highlight of my time in Britain was working in a nightclub in Colchester,” laughs Olivier. “Lots of late nights and headaches, but I learned so much about the wine business.”
“We are far stronger as part of a larger family of houses. Being part of LVMH gives us added security, without sacrificing the vision and philosophy of our founder Joseph Krug.”
Even today, Olivier is a regular visitor to the UK, responsible for introducing Krug’s vintage releases to the wine trade and press. His latest project is the 2002 Krug vintage. Widely considered to be one of the finest Krug vintages ever released, I can confirm that the 2002 is, indeed, utterly outstanding: complex, aromatic and extremely powerful.
“The 2002 growing season was almost too easy,” says Olivier. “Our winemaker talked about managing the egos, as so many of the blending wines were powerful and expressive in nature. This is definitely a vintage to lay down for a long time.”
But aside from his working life, where does Olivier like to spend his time in London after hours? “I love Mayfair’s 5 Hertford Street. It’s an amazing venue with a great selection of Krug vintages,” he enthuses. A passionate gourmet, Olivier spent several years in Tokyo in the 1990s promoting Krug to an educated and appreciative audience.
“London and Tokyo vie for the position of my favourite city,” says Olivier. “I love them both for their incredible energy.” Does he speak Japanese? “Only after a few drinks,” he smiles.
His other major passions are fishing and family, although he concedes that his family doesn’t get together as often as he would like.
The conversation turns to Olivier’s children, and the question of succession. I ask if he wants, or indeed expects his son to follow in his footsteps.
“Of course, I would be proud if he continued the tradition, but ultimately he has to follow his own path,” Olivier replies. “So perhaps I will be the last generation of the Krug family to be involved in the house. Although I’m not planning to retire any time soon – let's wait and see!”
As the interview draws to an end, we come full circle and muse over Joseph Krug’s legacy that has endured for more than a century. While I’m sure that Krug will continue to thrive even after Olivier’s – eventual – retirement, it will nonetheless be slightly poorer for this remarkable man’s absence.