Just before the announcement she was being made the new chef de caves of Krug Champagne, last month, dbHK met winemaker Julie Cavil in Hong Kong for the presentation of the latest releases from the house, Krug Grande Cuvée 162ème and Krug 2006. She spent a moment with us to talk about working at the famous domain.
Q: What is the difference between the Grand Cuvée and vintage wines?
A: The first, cuvée number 162 is the new edition of Krug Grande Cuvée that we create every single year regardless of climatic variations – it is the fullest expression of Champagne we make. The second cuvée is the Krug vintage. Here, we want to tell you what happened in the tasting room and story of the year.
Q: Tell us more about 2006, what challenges did it pose?
A: 2006 was a hot year in Champagne. It was stressful since there was a lot of rain at one point. The wine from this year is more about generosity, roundness, ripe fruit, and a full-bodied sensation on the palate – the wine fizzes in your mouth in every direction and lasts a long time.
Q: I’m sure 2006 was a remarkable vintage for you, as this was the year you joined Krug. What, if anything, has changed since you joined?
A: Yes, I’m especially happy to be here to present the first creation of mine. Speaking of changes, in fact it is easy to join a new place and change everything there; yet I prefer the challenge of recreating the same excellence year by year. It is much more exciting for me.
Now in the house, the fundamentals are always the same. Together with Jerome Jacoillot, our winemaking development manager, we endeavour to polish and perfect different details of the operations, for example the comfort of the workers and sustainability. We are always on the move, fine tuning things bit by bit. It may take years of experiment, but as long as the changes do not affect the Krug taste, we will roll them out.
Q: What about the changes to the climate in recent years? What do you see and have you taken any prevention measures?
A: Over the past 20 years, we have seen changes in the composition and maturity of the grapes. It is very common to see a disconnect between maturation of sugar level and aroma. Fortunately we work out the harvest dates very exactly to get the grapes we need at Krug. Yet before that, we have to taste the berries before picking and closely follow the evolution of aroma during the maturation – we have to make sure everything is on point.
For the moment, we have benefited from climate change as we are at the extreme north for most viticulture and where the climate can be quite difficult. However, it doesn’t mean we don’t think about the future. We try to adapt new viticultural techniques, for example to grow the vines with deeper roots and using a different pruning method. Also, we record everything with detailed and comprehensive descriptions to serve as a reference for the next generation.
Q: What are the other challenges have you faced in recent years?
A: There are always a lot of challenges – every single year is a new challenge! Every year, we have to plan carefully according to the priority: first and foremost is always the recreation of a new edition of Krug Grande Cuvée, then it is the refilling of the reserve wine library. If the story of the year is interesting, we will make a new vintage, but it is not an easy decision each time. For instance, 2012 was a fantastic year, we would have loved to declare the vintage, but since the crop was small, we had to give priority to reserve wines instead. Right now we have 15 different harvest in the reserve, which contributes to the complexity we need.
Q: Krug has been innovative in launching a couple of marketing programmes, including the Krug ID app, ambassador chefs, and the music pairing experience. As a winemaker, what is your take on these initiatives?
A: People used to think marketing and winemaking are at two extremes, but in fact they go hand in hand. All our marketing strategy gives tribute to the know-how and philosophy of Krug and after all it is still about the winemaking at its core. The house stayed discrete for some years and I believe these channels are opening us up again for people to appreciate the art of blending at the house. For example with the Krug ID, customers get to know everything about the vintage and tasting room. It is great to go completely transparent and we are passionate in sharing our products. To me, marketing is a means to give credit to our work.