Here’s the problem with champagne (I’m just going to come right out and say it): most of it isn’t very good.
Seriously. A lot of what you’ve been drinking is probably Lambrini Bianco or fizz from one of the lesser champagne houses, dare I even say, prosecco or cava served under the guise of champagne. Bottled bubbles fooling suburban rappers and footballer’s wives, who don’t know what they’re drinking or what they’re talking about but waft it with a mischievously wankey air.
We can’t continue to bundle all fizzy plonk into the champagne category; we can’t continue to let it be the chosen narcotic of Essex girls on a Saturday night
There’s too much marketing of the mediocre and not enough written about the leading houses of the champagne region. Greater education is required. We can’t continue to bundle all fizzy plonk into the champagne category; we can’t continue to let it be the chosen narcotic of Essex girls on a Saturday night; the posh boys aphrodisiac; and an administer of the five-star state of mind, not when most of it is just substandard liquor.
True heritage champagne is something other. It’s a much higher calling. And anyway, whose ever heard of a Prosecco Reception?
It’s what the French call Le gout Anglais, which translates as “the English taste”. You see, we English do it all wrong. Even if you don’t, you do. Even if you’ve researched, studied, read every textbook and tried-and-tested all of the champagne in Champagne, the French still hold us in contempt. Despite this, there’s a plucky English perseverance and our sparkling wines are scooping awards across the industry.
A group of Parisian restaurateurs recently rated English fizz better than the French equivalent in a blind tasting, which included Eric Riewer, president of the wine-tasting committee of the Gault et Millau restaurant guide.
Most of us, however, just want the feeling we get when we hear the cork pop and the stream of fizzy bubbles try to escape from the bottle… who cares whether it’s Krug Grande Cuvée or Babycham?
Well, I do. You should, too. The House of Krug care. They were voted The World’s Most Admired Champagne Brand by Drinks International in March. Why? Well, they make an average of 450,000 bottle a year, that’s under 1% of the world’s champagne. Therefore, bottles are cherished, vintages are celebrated and Krug considered above all others.
Oh, and another thing: champagne flutes are b––locks
Oh, and another thing: champagne flutes are b––locks. They were invented by the English in 1663 as a gimmick, a way of showing off the upwards fizz of bubbles. Then there’s the coupe which, if you believe some of the French theorists, was invented by Marie Antoinette, who had the glasses fashioned from casts of her breasts so that courtiers could drink to her health from them. Anyway, they do nothing to promote the nose or aromatics of a Cuvée Prestige or Tête de Cuvée.
What you should be drinking from is a Joseph glass, a crystal glass whose shape enables the bubbles to reach their optimal expression, allowing the discovery of a bouquet of aromas. This is one of the first things that Krug want you to know.
The second, is that the richness of your Krug champagne is fully revealed between 9°C and 12°C. None of these balmy nightclub temperatures, but then serving your bottle too cold will restrain the full expression of the aroma. I’m telling you this because if you’ve invested in a bottle of Krug – or any champagne – then you’re serious about the pleasures it brings and should not be taking any shortcuts.
Thirdly, over 20 years go into the creation of each bottle of Krug Grande Cuvée. Its opening is a union between all of the people who helped create that bottle; those seasonal pickers and harvest pluckers… and you. So relax and enjoy your champagne. Don’t listen to wine writers and sommeliers (and people like me), your tastes and experiences and surroundings are yours.
“Devoted Krug lovers have one significant advantage over me,” says Olivier
Olivier Krug is a sixth generation Krug and the Director of the House of Krug in Reims. He thinks that 11am is the optimum Krug drinking time, paired with a hunk of parmesan. Still, it’s your champagne, so if you want to drink it in the bath or with a Nutella sandwich, you should.
“Devoted Krug lovers have one significant advantage over me,” says Olivier. “They can recall and describe in minute detail, the first time they ever tasted Krug champagne… a drop of Krug was placed on my lips the day I was born.”
Olivier’s desire to describe and share the Krug world has manifested in the creation of the Krug World Festival, held for the first time last month in Rome. Guests had a rare opportunity to taste some of the world’s most prized Krug and entered the immersive world of the House of Krug; visiting the Mercato Campo dei Fiori market, cooking with Malaysian chef James Won (Brasserie Enfin); an evening meal prepared by Anthony Genovese (Restaurant II Pagliaccio) and his team and watching performances from Beardyman and the BluFunk musician Keziah Jones.
Through the combination of music, cooking, art and travel, the Krug World Festival offers guests an insight into the world’s most famous champagne House. “Krug is all about harmony”, says Olivier. “It’s a full spectrum of emotions… not big and overpowering, but not small and subtle, either. The objective of Eric [Eric Lebel is Krug’s cellar master and blending alchemist] is to create a champagne that is harmonious.”
Eric realises the importance of opening up Krug to the world, “People are drinking Krug, celebrating with Krug and visiting Krug. Now they want to know about its heritage and formation. We put an emphasis on the pairing between Krug, music and art. They are intrinsically linked. The wine must have balance, like an orchestra.”
In 2009, Krug welcomed a new president and CEO, Maggie Henriquez. “That philosophy, and the history which surrounds me, enthrals me,” she says. “The Krug way demands an attention to detail which, across more than 160 years, has followed every plot, every wine, through every stage of creation… Krug Grande Cuvée is the ultimate champagne – and it bestows a unique pleasure.”
Maybe that’s it… maybe it’s just all in the liquid vernacular. Can you hear the English describing their wines in such simplistic yet wondrous language? Krug have opened their world to the public after years of privacy and hushed whispers in the cellars of Reims, and it’s just as brilliant and delicious as I’d have expected it to be. C
On the 1st September, 2016 Krug will host a special event entitled Krug Island. The 24-hour event will take place on Osea Island with food by Michael O’Hare and music curation by Mick Jones. Visit Krugisland.com for more info.