20 Minutes With: New Krug Champagne President Manuel Reman
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20 Minutes With: New Krug Champagne President Manuel Reman

By Shivani Vora
Tue, Nov 22, 2022 8:34amGrey Clock 4 min

Founded in 1843 in Reims, France, Krug champagne is one of the most prestigious and sought-after wines globally. A price for a bottle ranges from US$210 for a Grand Cuvee, the non-vintage label that it recreates every year, to US$2,799 for Clos d’Ambonnay, a vintage that’s produced from a single plot of pinot noir grapes.

This year, Krug appointed a new president, Manuel Reman, who, at 44, is one of the youngest presidents in the brand’s history. He joins the company at a time when sales are at an all-time high, and the house can’t produce enough champagne to meet the demand. “We sold out of bottles everywhere last year, which has never really happened before,” Reman says. Despite its visibility, he points out that Krug is a small label that produces just 0.1 percent of the world’s champagnes from its 200 acres of vineyards—Moet Hennessy, in comparison, commands 15,000 acres. It’s also still run like a family house: Olivier Krug, the sixth generation Krug, is a director and heavily involved.

With sales soaring, Reman’s biggest mandate in his role is to maintain the champagne’s quality and not make radical changes to a formula that’s already working. But while he might be a newcomer to Krug, Reman has worked at its parent company, LVMH, for nearly two decades in various roles including as chief of staff for Moet Chandon’s CEO. Even before starting in the industry, however, appreciating wine—its terroir, body, and taste—was his longtime hobby that he pursued by joining wine clubs in Paris.

Reman recently spoke with Penta from Krug’s headquarters in Reims about the brand’s future, attracting new audiences, and his favourite ways to enjoy the perfect glass of bubbly.

PENTA: Krug is already a well-established brand. What is your vision for the company as its president?

Manuel Reman: There might be a lot of Krug fans, but we need to diversify who drinks our champagne. Currently, it’s enjoyed mostly by serious oenophiles, but we want to attract people who aren’t wine connoisseurs yet appreciate a great glass of champagne.

How has Krug changed since it was founded in 1843?

The taste profile of the champagne hasn’t changed. The toasted bread, spices, and orange marmalade that were characteristics when we were founded in 1843 still define our taste today. What has changed is the production process itself. We still ferment in oak barrels, although many champagne makers have switched to using stainless steel tanks. However, we now store our reserve wines in stainless steel, which keeps them fresher for longer. We usually stick with tradition but use modern techniques when it makes sense.

How does Krug differentiate itself from other luxury champagnes?

Most release only vintage champagnes which express the grape production of a particular year. Krug has vintages too, but we also release a Grand Cuvee—our non-vintage—every year that’s a blend of nearly 200 different wines produced in different years and from different grapes and regions.

Where are your biggest markets, and what areas are up-and-coming?

Japan, by far, is the biggest and has been for nearly 20 years. Nearly one out of every three bottles of Krug that is produced is consumed in Japan. It became popular there because Olivier Krug [the sixth generation of the Krug family and the house’s director] spent three years in Japan working on brand awareness.

After Japan, the U.S. is the biggest, although we’re only big in five markets: New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Texas, and South Florida. We’ve barely scratched the surface in the U.S., and part of the reason is that we don’t have enough bottles to sell.

In terms of up-and-coming markets, we’re seeing a lot of new drinkers in South Korea. Many high-end restaurants have opened in Seoul in recent years, and these places are carrying Krug. Germany and Italy are also newer markets for us and gained traction during Covid. The duty-free stores in the airports where Krug sells bottles were closed so we reallocated them to these countries, and people got to know about the brand.

There’s been a lot of press about the champagne shortage during the pandemic. What’s the reason behind the shortage, and how is Krug dealing with it?

People were home during Covid and started to consume champagne at home instead of saving it for a special occasion at a restaurant. They weren’t spending their discretionary income on traveling or going to restaurants and had a budget to spend on luxury items at home. Champagne fit into that trend.

Krug is dealing with the shortage by trying to make sure that our distribution is even in various markets and across restaurants and retailers. We are also asking retailers to limit the amount that customers can buy. What we don’t want is for any one person to buy a large number of bottles to keep or to resell.

You’re a proponent of the brand being about more than just drinking champagne. Can you explain what you mean?

I’m of the view that Krug needs to be an experience, not just a sparkling wine. For example, the Krug family house is in the village of Reims in the Champagne region, and we invite people to visit it for meals and tastings. The way we do our tastings is unique: We pair each champagne with a different music composition. We commission music from musicians all over the world and ask them to compose short songs for us based on the creative inspiration they get when they drink our champagnes. It could be classical, jazz, pop, or anything. We play their compositions while visitors drink our various champagnes. Chloe Flower, a classical pianist from the U.S., is one example of a musician we have collaborated with.

We also give private tours of our vineyards and cellars for people who schedule in advance. You can even spend the whole day in the fields appreciating the landscape, the greenery, the sounds of the birds, and just being outside.

Any tips for budding champagne collectors?

Know that champagne can age beautifully, but you need to store it away from the light and in cool temperatures. I also suggest buying champagnes from a diversity of brands, from small growers to well-known labels, because there are so many styles, and a collection should always have a mix. Once you find a champagne that you love, buy as much of it as you can. The scarcity issue isn’t going anywhere, especially with climate change and unpredictable harvest conditions. Follow your taste, not any rules about what champagne you should and shouldn’t own.

What advice can you share for enjoying the perfect glass of champagne?

First of all, please drink it in flutes. Champagne is a wine and should be drunk in a white wine glass. People started using flutes to see the effect of the bubbles rising from the bottom to the top, but they’re like listening to a concert with earplugs—the shape of the glass mutes the taste.

And, never wait for a special occasion to drink. Pop a bottle anytime, even on a Monday night dinner at home. What you’re celebrating is the champagne and the connection you have with the person you’re drinking it with.



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Should AI Have Access to Your Medical Records? What if It Can Save Many Lives?

We asked readers: Is it worth giving up some potential privacy if the public benefit could be great? Here’s what they said.

By DEMETRIA GALLEGOS
Tue, May 28, 2024 4 min

We’re constantly told that one of the potentially biggest benefits of artificial intelligence is in the area of health. By collecting large amounts of data, AI can create all sorts of drugs for diseases that have been resistant to treatment.

But the price of that could be that we have to share more of our medical information. After all, researchers can’t collect large amounts of data if people aren’t willing to part with that data.

We wanted to see where our readers stand on the balance of privacy versus public-health gains as part of our series on ethical dilemmas created by the advent of AI.

Here are the questions we posed…

AI may be able to discover new medical treatments if it can scan large volumes of health records. Should our personal health records be made available for this purpose, if it has the potential to improve or save millions of lives? How would we guard privacy in that case?

…and some of the answers we received. undefined

Rely on nonpartisan overseers

While my own recent experience with a data breach highlights the importance of robust data security, I recognise the potential for AI to revolutionise healthcare. To ensure privacy, I would be more comfortable if an independent, nonpartisan body—overseen by medical professionals, data-security experts, and citizen representatives—managed a secure database.

Anonymity cuts both ways

Yes. Simply sanitise the health records of any identifying information, which is quite doable. Although there is an argument to be made that AI may discover something that an individual needs or wants to know.

Executive-level oversight

I think we can make AI scanning of health records available with strict privacy controls. Create an AI-CEO position at medical facilities with extreme vetting of that individual before hiring them.

Well worth it

This actually sounds like a very GOOD use of AI. There are several methods for anonymising data which would allow for studies over massive cross-sections of the population without compromising individuals’ privacy. The AI would just be doing the same things meta-studies do now, only faster and maybe better.

Human touch

My concern is that the next generations of doctors will rely more heavily, maybe exclusively, on AI and lose the ability or even the desire to respect the art of medicine which demands one-on-one interaction with a patient for discussion and examination (already a dying skill).

Postmortem

People should be able to sign over rights to their complete “anonymised” health record upon death just as they can sign over rights to their organs. Waiting for death for such access does temporarily slow down the pace of such research, but ultimately will make the research better. Data sets will be more complete, too. Before signing over such rights, however, a person would have to be fully informed on how their relatives’ privacy may also be affected.

Pay me or make it free for all

As long as this is open-source and free, they can use my records. I have a problem with people using my data to make a profit without compensation.

Privacy above all

As a free society, we value freedoms and privacy, often over greater utilitarian benefits that could come. AI does not get any greater right to infringe on that liberty than anything else does.

Opt-in only

You should be able to opt in and choose a plan that protects your privacy.

Privacy doesn’t exist anyway

If it is decided to extend human lives indefinitely, then by all means, scan all health records. As for privacy, there is no such thing. All databases, once established, will eventually, if not immediately, be accessed or hacked by both the good and bad guys.

The data’s already out there

I think it should be made available. We already sign our rights for information over to large insurance companies. Making health records in the aggregate available for helping AI spot potential ways to improve medical care makes sense to me.

Overarching benefit

Of course they should be made available. Privacy is no serious concern when the benefits are so huge for so many.

Compensation for breakthroughs

We should be given the choice to release our records and compensated if our particular genome creates a pathway to treatment and medications.

Too risky

I like the idea of improving healthcare by accessing health records. However, as great as that potential is, the risks outweigh it. Access to the information would not be controlled. Too many would see personal opportunity in it for personal gain.

Nothing personal

The personal info should never be available to anyone who is not specifically authorised by the patient to have it. Medical information can be used to deny people employment or licenses!

No guarantee, but go ahead

This should be allowed on an anonymous basis, without question. But how to provide that anonymity?

Anonymously isolating the information is probably easy, but that information probably contains enough information to identify you if someone had access to the data and was strongly motivated. So the answer lies in restricting access to the raw data to trusted individuals.

Take my records, please

As a person with multiple medical conditions taking 28 medications a day, I highly endorse the use of my records. It is an area where I have found AI particularly valuable. With no medical educational background, I find it very helpful when AI describes in layman’s terms both my conditions and medications. In one instance, while interpreting a CT scan, AI noted a growth on my kidney that looked suspiciously like cancer and had not been disclosed to me by any of the four doctors examining the chart.

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