Inside Maison Krug - An ode to joy

The October afternoon sun shone warmly on Maison Krug’s golden bell. The entrance was so unassuming that we almost thought it was a regular mansion in Reims. But the doors painted in Krug signature dark cherry red gave it away. It was through these doors that we were about to embark on a sensory journey, to enter the world of champagne created by Joseph Krug…

This was the very first savoir-faire visit organized for the 2023-24 class of ESSEC GMBA program. Around noon on October 6, 2023, our train arrived in Reims, a tranquil city known to many as the ‘unofficial champagne capital of France’. After a brief visit to the historic Halles du Boulingrin where we were introduced to Reims specialty food, we enjoyed a lovely luncheon at the private lounge of Petit Comptoir. For more than 25 years, Chef Thierry Sidan passionately presents a changing menu that highlights the variety of French cuisine with seasonal ingredients. He welcomed some of us to take a sneak peek at his newly renovated kitchen, making this intimate lunch more special.

Walking through the cobblestone streets, we ended up at the renowned Cathedral of Notre-Dame of Reims before our visit to Masion Krug. We marvelled at its imposing structure, but what appealed to us the most were the stained-glass windows created by modern artists such as Marc Chagall and Imi Knoebel. The Cathedral was a perfect illustration of a harmonious blend of the past, present, and a futuristic vision, and this is exactly the essence of Maison Krug.

Luxury is to create dreams. In 1843, when founder Joseph Krug established the champagne maison, his dream was to create the finest Champagne possible, year after year, without being affected by the fluctuations in climate. Today, after six generations, this dream continues, and it keeps evolving. At the spacious, tasteful private lounge of Maison Krug where Anne Sophie de Guillebon, Family House Ambassador, received us, we curiously explored a collection of the maison’s relics on display. On the wall hang portraits of the Krug founder and his family, photos of historic events, and antique tasting notes. Above the fireplace, a large selection of gastronomy related publications and photos of Krug Ambassade Chefs showcase Krug’s ambition to blend heritage with modernity. De Guillebon explained to us, each year, Krug invites renowned chefs around the world to create food pairings to accompany the latest Édition of Krug Grande Cuvée and Krug Rosé, celebrating each year one humble Single Ingredient. Through creative dialogues, champagne, and cuisine, Krug aims to spread the joie de vivre.

‘Santé!’ After enjoying a glass of Krug Grande Cuvée around a replica of Joseph Krug’s legendary dark cherry notebook enclosed in a leather suitcase, we ventured down to the network of cellars underneath the family house. As we arrived, we are met with aisles of racks which seemed never-ending, each cradled numerous bottles of Krug aging gracefully. Around seven years were needed for the complete richness of flavours and aroma to unfold in a bottle of Krug. In these dark cellars, Krug specialists carefully examine the fermentation process
using traditional techniques and tools, quarter-turning each with precision only when the time is right.

“Il y a des oeuvres qui font passer le temps, et d'autres qui expliquent le temps.”, some works let time pass by, others explain time. This famous quote by André Malraux guarded Krug’s ‘Sanctuary of time capsules’, housing the reserve wines of the House of Krug dating back to 1880. The Krug philosophy remains the same, but each bottle expresses its distinctive personality. “At Krug, there is no hierarchy in champagne, individuality is at the heart of the savoir-faire”, explained de Guillebon.

There is an analogy between Krug champagne and music, both creating harmony with elements which sometimes seem contradictory. Krug Cellar Master Julie Cavil, therefore, becomes the conductor who isolates each vineyard plot - 400 in total - to hear its voice, and decide which ones combined will create a harmony. In the Krug tasting room, next to The Wall of 400 Wines, participants of our cohort were able to experience, for the first time, an immersive, sensory adventure that combined champagne tasting and music. Eyes closed, we listened to soundscapes created exclusively by IRCAM (French Institute for Acoustic and Musical Research) for Krug, characterizing the individuality of wines used for champagne making, while sipping Krug Grande Cuvée or Krug Vintage 2008. Light-hearted like Chardonnay, or unexpected like meunier, the tailor-made soundscapes indeed help us better understand the individuality of Krug Champagne. It demonstrated the power and art of blending at Krug.

Sunset painted the sky with rosy, honey, and apricot hues, echoing The Wall of 400 Wines in the tasting room. We left with a deep understanding of maison Krug, our hearts filled with joy. 

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