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The German Johann-Joseph Krug (1800-1866), born in Mainz, worked from 1834 in an executive position for Adolphe Jacquesson in his champagne house and married his sister-in-law in 1841 (however, there is no relationship to the Californian winegrowing pioneer Charles Krug). Together with the wine merchant Hippolyte de Vivès, the company Krug et Cie. was founded in Reims in 1843. Initially, they traded in Champagne and other wines from the Champagne region. Two years later, champagne production began. After Jean-Joseph's death, the company was divided between his widow, Hyppolite de Vivès, and his son Paul Krug (1842-1910).

After de Vivès retired shortly afterwards, Paul Krug took over the management. Under his leadership, the company developed into an important champagne house. From 1898 to 1910, he was also president of the Syndicat du commerce des vins de Champagne. As one of ten children, his son Joseph Krug succeeded him in 1910. Under Paul Krug II. (born 1912) with his cousin Jean Seydoux, the leading position of the house was consolidated and the estate was enlarged by the purchase of first-class vineyard sites. In 1999, Krug was bought by the LVMH group. However, the business is still run by the family. They are Henri (born 1937) as general manager and his brother Rémi Krug (born 1942). Their children Olivier and Caroline, already the sixth generation, are also active in the company.

The products of the house rank among the absolute top of quality and are regarded in professional circles as the quality benchmark for champagne. Special aficionados of this brand even call themselves "Krugist" (French Krugiste, English Kruggist) and believe that there is no better champagne. In terms of extreme quality criteria, this is indeed a very special champagne. This begins with a selective choice of grapes. Up to 70% of the harvest offered by grape growers is rejected and only the very best material is accepted. Rigorous selection is also carried out in the estate's own vineyards. The single vineyard "Clos du Mesnil" in the Grand Cru community of Mesnil-sur-Oger covers only two hectares and is 100% planted with Chardonnay.

The harvest of this tiny quantity often extends over four to five days, as only the ripest grapes are taken in one pass. Only the must from the first pressing (cuvée) is used. Only pièces, small oak barrels with a volume of 205 litres, are used for the (first) fermentation. Around 3,300 barrels of this type, some of which are up to 30 years old, are used. The ageing in old barrels results in a special smoothness. Around 10% of them are replaced every year, first cleaned with hot water and used elsewhere for up to three years before they are used for champagne production. The effort is enormous, but the exact procedure is one of the many Krug quality secrets.

The company has always been a master at assemblage. The wines are aged on their lees for a very long time. As a rule, champagnes are not suitable for storage and should be enjoyed relatively quickly. Not so with Krug - these are ideal for long storage and are treated as great wines. Another novelty is that Champagne normally drunk at eight to 11 °Celsius can have a few degrees more with Krug products and this has a positive effect on the taste. This is why they are also an excellent food companion to many dishes. The "Grande Cuvée" is the standard product of the house and comprises 65 to 80% of the production volume. For it, 50 to 60 wines from up to 25 sites and six to ten vintages are used. The house avoids the usual term "sans anée" (vintageless) and calls it "multi vintage champagne".) This champagne should not be opened for two years after delivery, some even say ten years.

The blend of grape varieties for vintage champagne "Vintage Brut" and "Millésime", which are only produced in special years, is different. They are stored on the yeast for at least 7 to 15 years. The 1990 vintage came onto the market in 2003. A rosé has only been produced since 1983. It is blended from about 50% Pinot Noir, 20% Pinot Meunier and 25% Chardonnay plus the addition of a still Pinot Noir red wine from Aÿ and is considerably lighter in colour than other rosé champagnes. First produced in 1979, the cuvée de prestige "Clos du Mesnil" comes from the aforementioned single vineyard. This top blanc de blancs is made from 100% Chardonnay and is stored for 12 to 15 years before being marketed. Only about 10,000 bottles are produced annually. The best vintages include 1979, 1982, 1985, 1988 (champagne of the century) and 1990.

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Dr. Christa Hanten

For my many years of work as an editor with a wine and culinary focus, I always like to inform myself about special questions at Wine lexicon. Spontaneous reading and following links often leads to exciting discoveries in the wide world of wine.

Dr. Christa Hanten
Fachjournalistin, Lektorin und Verkosterin, Wien

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