Directeur de la Maison
Every February, since its founding in 1843, the annual blending of Krug champagne occurs under the direction of a Krug family member who follows no formula, no recipe—just relies on his sense of taste, memory and artistry that was passed down from the generation before. That prestigious burden now falls upon the shoulders of Olivier Krug, the sixth generation of the family to oversee the Prestige Cuvee house. Elite Traveler caught up with the director in New York this summer, where he was unveiling the vintage 1998 to the city’s most influential sommeliers.
ET: Your career at Krug wasn’t a certainty. What were the defining moments that let you know your future was at the house that bears your family name?
Olivier Krug: One highlight was when my father (Henri Krug) proposed that I join the company. At the time I was about to go to another company, and he said he was under a lot of pressure to retire in 12 to 15 years. So he asked, “Do you want to join me now?” Yes! And, another highlight that appealed to me, was that his proposal was to first go to Japan, where Krug did not have a presence. Japan is a very demanding luxury market, there would be nothing to lose, so I could learn the business there. My two-and-a-half years there were fantastic, both personally and for the business. Now in less than 15 years Japan has become Krug’s number one market. Compare that to the 100 years or so Krug has been present in the U.S. This was a major step. The third highlight occurred two years ago when I took on the official role of House Director. This is different than a managing director role, and my main responsibility is to look after the taste of Krug and head the tasting committee. But, despite the fact that they are “retired,” my father and uncle still attend every tasting!
ET: What is more instrumental to your success at Krug, your own bloodline or your passion for the champagne?
Olivier Krug: It is much more about the passion than the blood. I have four siblings, and they are all in other businesses. I am the one in the family who showed the most passion for the champagne. Whether in art or business, technique can lead you to a very high level. But what makes your character is your passion. You have to believe in what you do, always challenge yourself, and improve to better the quality.
ET: How have you seen the Krug brand evolve in your lifetime?
Olivier Krug: Krug has been one of the most successful luxury brands to cope with modernity in the last 20 years. It was very traditional, a well-hidden secret enjoyed by only a few. Now it is more famous, still selective, yet the brand leader in the ultimate luxury market. This is not a matter of price, but based on quality and the relationship you build with your consumers. People are looking for a product that is made for them—not available to anyone—and is made with love, and delivers a story. Krug makes up only 0.2 percent of champagne available in the market, and it is only a prestige cuvee, so it remains very select.
ET: And what do you foresee changing in the next ten years?
Olivier Krug: Krug will become more famous and at the same time more selective yet. We do the work on the distribution side to ensure it. Krug has to be available in all the Michelin-starred restaurants, and in the top hotels and resorts of the world. But, Krug also will need to be in the best clubs and lounges, where individuals want to enjoy the best too. And, this is just occurring to me, we will have to be on board the best private jets, yachts, and resort destinations that aren’t as focused on wines. The question is, how will we get there?
ET: How do you describe your management style?
Olivier Krug: I believe in a team and in sharing. Our tasting committee is a good example. There is no hierarchy; the youngest member of the committee has the same voice as that of my father, who has been the leader for 50 years. But I am demanding. I trust people will do what they commit to do.
ET: I understand you are an avid gardener. How else do you enjoy spending your free time?
Olivier Krug: I have four children, and 90 percent of my free time is spent with them. They are all in France, and are very active, sporty. I will spend a long weekend with them next week and be their taxi driver!
ET: Have you taken any particularly memorable trips recently?
Olivier Krug: I went to Austria for the first time in May, to visit the location where Lipizzaner horses are raised. My friends wanted to show me how linked the amount of passion and time are between raising the Lipizzaner and creating Krug champagne. For this trip I went by private jet—to Trieste, Graz and Vienna—and I just loved that.
ET: What would you be doing if you had not embarked on a career at Krug?
Olivier Krug: I really don’t know, but I would have to be making money in order to feel free to drink Krug when I want!
The House of Krug consists of exclusively prestige Cuvee champagnes. Its six labels are Krug Grande Cuvee, Krug Rose, Krug Vintage, Krug Collection, Krug Clos du Mesnil and Krug Clos d’Ambonnay. Since 1999, Krug has been owned by LVMH and distributed internationally by Moet-Hennessy.