Fongyee Walker works as a wine consultant and a WSET…
I enjoyed a ‘Butcher’ of bubbles with Olivier Krug in the front bar of ‘The Exeter’ hotel recently.
As Nick Ryan wrote in the intro of his column in ‘The Australian’,
“It is said there is champagne and then there is Krug. The house founded by Joseph Krug in 1843 is arguably the most distinctive, and most celebrated, in the world today”.
Olivier is a sixth generation Krug family member.
The famous Rundle St hotel ‘The Exeter’ has had a very long association with Krug.
Back in the mid 1980’s Australia’s highly regarded wine writer Philip White a great friend of Olivier’s father Henri and his Uncle Remi Krug, convinced the then publican Nick Binns to put Krug on the old chalkboard wine list.
The ‘Exeter’ was where many ‘People of Wine’ often met.
At one point the elusive Clare Valley winery Wendouree was making the Exeter house red, it sold over the bar for $6.
The Exeter is rumoured over the years to have sold more Krug than any where else in Australia.
It’s normally served in a ‘Butcher’ glass. (Butcher is a uniquely South Australian term for a seven ounce beer)
To quote from Nick Ryan’s column again “Krug is about individuality and there’s no more unique encounter with Krug than what has happened here for years,” Olivier said in the front bar. “Krug is comfortable wherever people love Krug.”
He brought with him proof the uniquely Adelaidean practice is not only tolerated but celebrated.
To mark the release of the 166th edition of Krug’s signature bottling, Grande Cuvee, Olivier has given the Exeter 166 specially embossed Krug ‘Butcher’ glasses, one for each bottle sold until they’re all gone.
My son Sam lives in Spain, he was in town recently and took my partner Anne-Marie and I to the ‘EX’ for a bottle of Krug as a thank-you for looking after him while he was here. He grabbed a Krug butcher glass to take home to Madrid.
Australia is a major market for Champagne.
Krug has had a very long association with Australia. Olivier’s time here and The Exeter butcher glass is all part of it.
The Krug ‘Butcher’ glass ?
We have given the Exeter Hotel 166 specially embossed Krug butcher glasses, one for each bottle of Grande Cuvée bottle until sold out.
Krug in a butcher glass at the Exeter goes back to the early days.
In the world of Champagne, Krug is known as a fundamentalist house: the butcher glass tradition reflects that. I created the hashtag #noflutes.
I have friends who come here and drink Krug.
They tell me we had it in a butcher glass and ask if I agree with that.
I tell them it’s a long tradition at the Exeter.
I believe this is the place where people in the wine industry meet and come to drink wine.
I have been here before with my father and my Uncle.
They’d both been here many times with their good friend the wine writer Philip White.
It was Philip who convinced the public Nick Binns to put Krug on the wine list back in the mid 1980’s.
I’m told The Exeter was the biggest Krug outlet in Australia.
Your family has a long association with Adelaide.
My great-grandfather came to Australia in 1891.
I was reading his notes this morning, he stopped in Port Adelaide only one night, and said he went to dinner but he probably went to watch football.
Our family have always been great lovers of football.
He went to see a game, I’m sure, probably what you call Aussie Rules.
My dad came twice maybe three times, and my Uncle Remi many times.
What’s special about Krug ?
When my great, great Grandfather Joseph started Krug, his plan was not to plan, his plan was to create a champagne that did not exist.
His plan went something like this,
“How can I get to this position where I don’t wait for a good year, because every year is different.”
He wanted to make the expression of what is now Krug.
This is our 166th vintage, my great, great Grandfather’s dream was always about getting beyond the restraint of vintages and it’s how we still do it.
We get the very best every year.
Every year we go plot to plot and put aside the best wine.
So every year we have a library of the best wines to make our signature bottling, Grande Cuvée .
You know Krug is about individuality and some people ask us all the time about using Pinot Meunier and it’s not about just Pinot Meunier, it’s about our best specific plots and blending them.
It’s like saying “I’m going to a pub to drink Krug, no I’m not going to a pub, I’m going to the Exeter Hotel” it’s a very strong individual link for Krug lovers.
Your role at Krug ?
We have a winemaking team of six winemakers.
I am part of the team despite being the only one not to be a winemaker.
Australia and Champagne ?
Australians love Champagne, and luckily for us they love Krug.
Australia is a big importer of Champagne.
I think number five or six on the world list, and if you only listed the Grande Marques, it is even more important, you’d be I think maybe number four or five.
Krug has a long history here, we first came to Australia in the 1860’s.
The 166th Vintage ?
There are 13 vintages in this wine, the youngest wine is 2010 and the oldest goes back to 1998.
This is the feeling of the Krug idea or what my great, great Grandfather planned.
What is great is that we now have the Krug app, it’s the only thing you get free at Krug.
People love it.
On the back of each of the bottle it gives you a code to use with the app – this one is 117001.
That’s where you get the story of the bottle.
What’s also interesting on the Krug app is that we offer music pairing.
I believe this is more important than food pairing.
You get the real expression of the wine because you don’t have food in the mouth.
The music plays with your brain and gives you an even better expression of the wine.
We often do our blending at Krug using this app.
It’s put together for us by professional musicians.
Music has always been important to me.
In 1995, I was in Manchester at a very formal black tie dinner with lots of important people.
Our agent introduced me to Tony Wilson, the British record label owner, radio and television presenter and night club manager among other things.
We started talking about music, it was about 1am.
“Would you like to see some of Manchester and our music ?”
I said I’d like to, so we took off the black-tie and we went off in his Jaguar, just Tony and myself.
This night was one of my best memories ever.
We first went to his nightclub ’The Hacienda’, he talked to me about that famous show with the Sex Pistols, Pete Shelley and others.
He took me on the other side of Manchester.
This is where the industrial side of things are.
He was known as “Mr Manchester”.
It was a fantastic night, like something out of the movie, ’24 Hours Party People’- unfortunately he passed away a few years later.
Champagne : The International drink of celebration. Why ?
Why : because of the bubbles – for a long time it was the only sparkling wine in the world. It was the drink of the Kings and Queens… it was elegant.
When you drink it, it makes you happy. The first two glasses make people relax.
Production, interview & photography : Milton Wordley
Transcript & edit : Anne-Marie Shin
Website guru : Simon Perrin Version Design