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.
Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’
Nothing stays these brokers from the swift completion of their appointed showings
What is the worst weather you have ever had to contend with while showing a home?
Justin Fox, broker/owner, Re/Max Professionals, Cottage Grove, Minn.
In the summer of 2011, I was driving some buyers—a mother from out of town with her two young daughters, each under 6—to look at homes. The first two showings were uneventful, but as we headed to the third, we encountered a giant wall cloud on the road. I see wall clouds all the time, but for those not familiar with them, it’s a giant tower of clouds, and it’s very dark and ominous-looking, so it can be scary. My buyer, who claimed to have been some sort of weather watcher, started freaking out, saying things like, “That’s a wall cloud! It’s dangerous! We’re going to have a tornado!” That in turn caused the daughters to start screaming and crying hysterically. They were kicking so much in the back that they caused the threading of my leather seat to come loose. I did my best to calm them down, but then the torrential rain and thunder started, and that led to more screaming from the kids. Thank God we made it to the next house within 10 minutes. I pulled my car into the garage to avoid the hail, and we sheltered in the basement for 25 minutes until it lightened up outside. Then we went on with our showings like nothing ever happened.
Victoria Rong Kennedy, associate broker, the Corcoran Group, New York, N.Y.
I wouldn’t say this was the worst weather, but it was definitely the weirdest. On June 7, 2023, I had three private showings lined up at 2:30 p.m., 3 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. to show my listing on the Upper East Side, which was a duplex penthouse with three terraces listed for $3.3 million. That morning, Canadian wildfire smoke was blowing through the sky of Manhattan. They were telling everyone on TV and radio to stay home all day, and I kept watching my emails and texts, hoping that all three groups of buyers would cancel their showings, but no one did. By 1:30 p.m., the sky was really dark. There was almost no visibility, but, still, there were no cancellations. At 2 p.m., I searched for an old Covid mask, put it on and walked out like a hero to go on the combat field. I could barely see anything a half block away, but I walked 11 blocks and two avenues and managed to get to the building. Well, all three groups of buyers and their brokers showed up on time. We all chatted about how strange the weather was. We put our masks back on when we stood on the living room terrace, which overlooks Billionaires’ Row, but we had no visibility. The sky was red and black, and all we could see was a small circle of light in the sky. It looked like the moon behind heavy clouds. It was like a scene from a movie.
Jeffrey Decatur, broker associate, Re/Max Capital, Latham, N.Y.
Living in upstate New York, I have experienced all kinds of bad weather—snow so deep it was up to my thighs and rain so hard that I wished my shower had that much pressure. However, the worst took place in April 2017, when I was showing a home in Waterford, N.Y., a suburb of Albany. It was during a late-season blizzard that came on fast, and there had to be about 2 feet of snow. The home had a normal-size driveway, but it was a foreclosure and was not shoveled. So, my client and I trekked up the crunchy, snowy driveway and eventually got into the house. As we were walking around, complaining about the Arctic blast and blizzard, I heard the sound of babbling water. I thought it was a fountain, so my buyer and I continued to walk around the house. As we moved toward the garage and family room, the babbling got louder, and as we headed for the basement, we saw that the pipes had frozen. The basement ceiling had fallen, and water was pouring in from the ceiling and the walls. The floor had about 3 inches of water and ice. I called the listing agent and left a message, but I couldn’t just leave the water running, so I waded through the freezing cold water in the basement and turned the water off. I didn’t really think that through, because I was drenched and then had to make my way back through the house and out into the blizzard again. When I opened the front door, I nearly froze immediately, and by the time I got to the end of the porch, I was crunchy and icy. When I got to my car, parked at the end of the driveway, my hair was frozen to my face, and I could barely bend my legs or feel my hands. I was walking like the Tin Man. It took me several hours to thaw out.
——Edited from interviews
Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’