On the occasion of the memorial celebrations of the World War I centenary, Olivier Krug has designed a unprecedented 2-days life & Krug Champagnes tasting, including Krug Private Cuvée 1915, experience led by him at the House of Krug in Reims. It will take place in 2016 and the journey will be sold as one lot at an auction at Sotheby’s in New York on September 25th, 2015.
From September 1914 to November 1918, Reims suffered 1,151 days of bombing. The Krug family shared the fate of millions of French people affected by the war. They supported their employees, their families and the community by opening the doors of their buildings, as shelter from the relentless bombing raids. The people of Reims sought refuge in the cellars where, by the dim light of candles and oil lamps, time was passed reading, cooking, talking and knitting. A school classroom was assembled and forty local children attended. After their Church was destroyed, the Protestant community, to which the Krug family belonged, met in a part of the cellars called "the Crypt" to worship.
A few years ago, in the depths of the Krug archives, House historians found a treasure; a small box holding a unique testimony of this time: a journal written by a young refugee, Alice Martin, as well as long-forgotten album with small photographs of daily life at the House of Krug during the Great War. Today, they serve as a timely tribute to the courage and sacrifice of the people of Reims a century ago and some of them are illustrated here.
Early in the conflict, Joseph Krug II, grandson of the founder and head of the House of Krug, was called up to serve in the French army. He was taken prisoner and detained in Prussia. He was finally released in the spring of 1917, and travelled to Switzerland for treatment.
With a skeleton staff remaining, his wife Jeanne maintained the activity of the House while helping with the war effort in Reims. A determined and generous woman, she worked with the Red Cross in Reims taking care of local families and treating wounded soldiers at the Val de Grace military hospital as well as various others in and around the city. Jeanne Krug assumed the role of head of the family, representing her absent husband until March 1917.
Joseph II and Jeanne Krug met in Paris in the summer of 1917 to resume management of the company, as well as oversee its evacuation from Reims, during the very heavy bombings of the last month of the war. At the end of the war, Jeanne Krug helped create the charitable organization “Retour à Reims” (Return to Reims).She was also one of the very first women in France to join the City Council. And, she helped the “American Fund for French Wounded” to build and offer to the City a children’s Hospital known as the “American Memorial Hospital”. Today, it remains a leading French hospital and a living sign of the friendship between the people of France and America, benefiting to the children of Reims and its region.
Despite the unfolding devastation, the harvests in 1915 still allowed for the creation of a very special vintage and there are only four very rare bottles which remain in Krug’s cellars as part of the Caveau Collection of the House.
After the occupation by the German troops from September 4th to 12th 1914 and their subsequent retreat into surrounding fortifications, the city of Reims was only 1,200 meters from the front and was exposed to heavy artillery fire.
In some areas, in particular the Montagne de Reims, the grapes were harvested only a few hundred yards from the trenches and under heavy bombardment. The almost daily artillery attacks obliged the French military authorities to regularly close the access roads to Reims, making it challenging for the House of Krug to organize the transport of barrels to and from their vineyards.
Jeanne Krug informed her husband of the progress of the harvest and the quality of the wines, and even forwarded Joseph Krug II’s replies of recommendations to the Chef de Caves for supplies and blends.
In 1915, she noted: "Every time I evoke the wines from 1914 and 1915, I meet general admiration for the fearless dedication of the producers and traders."
Today the 1915 vintage symbolizes the courage of a people determined to pluck goodness from a land wrecked by violence.
The four remaining bottles of Private Cuvée 1915 have been kept in perfect conditions, in the cellars of the House.