Setting off at 24 as a trader and commercial traveler, he finally arrived in Paris in 1834. It was an exciting time where he lived in a creative milieu peopled by artists. Dreaming of making his mark in the world of Champagne, Joseph leaped at an opportunity that would eventually lead him to greatness: Joseph Krug was employed by Jacquesson, the leading Champagne House of the time. He quickly became a partner, travelled widely, mixed with the influential, but was far from satisfied.
For him, the essence of Champagne was pleasure, yet variables in the weather could make quality waver dramatically from one year to the next. Joseph dreamed of another way beyond the constraints that compromised Champagne quality.
At the age of 42, a time when most in his position would be close to retiring, he left the security of a comfortable career to risk it all. It was not an easy decision to take, especially considering he had married into the Jacquesson dynasty. But he was ready to put his vision to the test.
AND FORGET NOTHING.
To immortalize his vision, Joseph confided in the pages of a cherry-red notebook – his enduring testament which survives to this day at the House of Krug. As he wrote in the notebook, passing on his knowledge to his son Paul, he was convinced great Champagne could only be achieved using good wines, tasted separately plot by plot, from good vineyards. Terroir was crucial.
But there was one more key to unlock guaranteed undisputed quality: he needed to free the process from climatic moodiness. So he began to
Determined to create the most generous expression of Champagne every single year, he drew upon his vast library of reserve wines to compose his prestige Champagne. In this way, whatever the weather, whatever the harvest, Joseph would always be able to create a Champagne abundant in nuances and of unequalled generosity.
His notebook refers to it as Champagne No.1. Krug Grande Cuvée was born.
It was a revolution. An approach beyond the notion of vintage. Joseph had turned his back on the accepted rules of Champagne making. Yet none could deny the exceptional richness, elegance and distinction he achieved in every Krug Grande Cuvée he elaborated.
From its very inception, Krug would be first in creating only prestige Champagnes every year, a still unique and defining trait of Krug to this day.
We know it today as Krug Vintage.
It is a Champagne which is not a selection of the best wines of a superlative year, but the blend of beautifully expressive wines from the year.
And so it is today.
Finally, in 1983, Henri and Rémi Krug blind-tested the bouquet of this mystery drop on their father, Paul. Their father was alarmed. “We’re in trouble – somebody in Champagne is copying Krug!” Quickly reassured that this was indeed a Krug, he recovered his composure.
To their relief, he liked this bold new creation and gave his blessing to elaborate the House’s first Rosé Champagne. With delicate honey, citrus and dried fruit notes, Krug Rosé reveals a rare elegance in a rosé Champagne, able to confront full-flavoured dishes, being an alternative to red wine. A Rosé Champagne like no other.
An ancient inscription reveals its age: “In the year 1698, this wall was built by Claude Jannin and Pierre Dehée Metoen and in the same year the vines were planted by Gaspard Jannin, son of Claude.”
Soon enough, Krug uncovered the plot’s outstanding nature. The walls protecting this small garden, create a veritable micro-climate that gives unique character to the Chardonnay grapes within.
Its special quality came to light through Krug’s idiosyncratic process of following each plot as an individual wine. After numerous tasting sessions, the wine from Clos du Mesnil clearly stood out from all the others. They had stumbled upon one of the clearest examples known of the magic of “terroir”, and it inspired the House of Krug to innovate once more, in the finest tradition of Joseph Krug’s anti-conformism.
For the first time in its history, Krug created a champagne devoted to a single plot of land, first revealed as Krug Clos du Mesnil 1979. One plot, one grape variety, one year. Thus was born the purest expression of Chardonnay.
For seven years, they searched around the village of Ambonnay, looking for an exceptional plot which might allow them to pay tribute to Pinot Noir, the grape variety closest to the House of Krug’s heart, in the same way that Krug Clos du Mesnil glorified Chardonnay.
Ambonnay is renowned in Champagne for its Pinot Noir grapes, having been the primary source for Krug since its beginnings. In the 20th century, it seemed all the most worthwhile plots must have been already identified. Yet a hidden treasure did exist. In 1991 they found it.
Tucked away on the edge of the village was a minuscule garden plot of just 0.68 hectares: the site we now know as the Clos d’Ambonnay. Although its vines had only been planted in the 20th century, this forgotten corner of terroir proved outstanding.
Purchased by the House in 1994, the plot produced a harvest worthy of its own vintage just one year later. Krug applied its meticulous savoir-faire to create the extremely rare Krug Clos d’Ambonnay 1995, finally revealed in 2007.
A new name was added to the pantheon of great champagnes.
It is what makes each bottle of Krug so precious.
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