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The end of the war commerce in champagne was in a critical situation. If it had kept up the soldiers' morale during the war then it now needed to do the same for the inhabitants of Champagne. It was true that, on the 10 May 1947, at the spring meeting of the A.V.C., René Chayoux, president of the merchants, was able to say, with the approval of Henri Macquart, the president of the vine growers: At the end of a period of terrible torment, the situation in Champagne is relatively fortunate. Our vineyards have not suffered as much as we might have feared. A sensible policy of restriction of prices and quantities sold has both maintained substantial levels of stock and Champagne's reputation from the point of view of price and quality. But in 1945, in the vineyards, many men had not come back, average yields had fallen to 32 hectolitres per hectare, a great deal of work which had been postponed for five years now had to carried out with some urgency if the prosperity of before the war was to be recovered. As for the merchants they, too, had a lot to do in order to restore and develop their businesses.
However, little by little the after-effects of the war disappeared. 1954 marked the beginning of an extraordinary phase of expansion for champagne both in terms of its means of production and its sales.
As time passed sales in France and exports to various countries grew rapidly.
Several remarks may be made concerning this dramatic evolution. Between the end of the hostilities and 1953 sales remained more or less at the level in 1938, i.e. around thirty million bottles annually, with a peak of thirty-five million in 1951. People restocked their cellars after the war but the stocks of the producers had not yet returned to their correct levels and the economic climate was hesitant. From 1954 the professions were able to evolve in a climate of healthy cooperation due to the creation of an interprofessional body, the spirit of competition seized the producers, merchants, growers who sold their own champagne, and the cooperatives; their combined efforts would, in a quarter of a century, multiply sales of champagne by six, which is considerable for a product with a relatively high price that, while it was certainly desirable and pleasant, was not a prime necessity.
Between 1910 and 1940 there was a stagnation in the level of sales, which hovered around 30 and 40 million bottles, with considerable and frequent peaks and troughs. The opposite was true in this period of expansion, of which the steadiness was remarkable. There were, however, four hiccups, which occurred for accidental reasons. The first in 1958-1959 was caused by a poor harvest due to frosts in 1957. The second, in 1968, resulted from the introduction of value added tax (VAT)42 and political and industrial problems. The 1970s began with a euphoric period of growth in sales, of the order of 10% per year, but then a third interruption occurred in 1974 as a result of the recession that was triggered by the fuel crisis. From 1973 to 1975 the British and Italian markets fell, in terms of bottles sold per year, from 10 million to 3 million and from 9.8 million to 2.8 million respectively. The French market fell by 6% in 1974 but quickly resumed its growth in 1975.
Unique to the House of Krug, every Krug Vintage is crafted to be different, to reveal the expression of a particular year. A year with character, a year with a special story to tell in a way that Krug alone can relate. To narrate this story, Krug has blended very expressive wines from a single year, enhanced by a stay of over ten years in the cellars. Krug Vintage is the story of a year as seen by Krug; there are as many stories as there are Krug Vintages.
For many people, there are champagnes and then there is Krug; that is how legendary this house is. Established in 1843 by Johann-Joseph Krug, the house has for six generations admirably stuck to its quality principles, to its generous burnt style and to its fabulous ageing potential. After the retirement of the fifth-generation brothers Henri and Rémi Krug, the house has been looking for its place within the LVMH Group. After two years at the company’s helm, Margareth Henriquez has found a direction and new winds are blowing through Krug, in the form of a more open-minded outlook. An excellent example is the idea implemented by Henriquez of equipping bottles with an easy-to-read ID that indicates the wine’s age and corking date.
The winemaking team, led by sixth-generation family representative Olivier Krug, is youthful. Cellar master Eric Lebel believes that a wine is always better made by a team than by an individual, therefore both Henri and Rémi Krug are still involved in the blending.
Krug vinifies each batch of grapes separately in small oak barrels. Annually the house produces 200-250 different wines, which is a huge quantity compared to its size. This gives the winemakers an enviable palette to work from when considering the final blends. Krug’s treasures include extensive stocks of earlier reserve wines, some of them 15 years old.
In contrast with other houses, Krug begins its series with the luxury blend. Rémi Krug would always bristle if someone mistakenly called the Krug Grande Cuvée non-vintage: “Krug is not non-anything! The Grand Cuvée is multi-vintage, a blend of fine wines from several years.” Other cuvées are like “pinpoints in the Krug universe”. The single-vineyard wines, the 100 per cent Chardonnay Clos du Mesnil and the 100 per cent Pinot Noir Clos d’Ambonnay, provide a key to understanding Krug. After Henri and Rémi Krug first produced the Clos du Mesnil vineyard champagne in 1979, they began searching for a counterpart. After nearly twenty-five years they found it in Clos d’Ambonnay, and its first vintage, 1995, was launched in 2007.
Vintage Krugs are classics that leave room for the special characteristics of each year. The Collection series gives old vintages, stored in perfect conditions, a new life in the hands of collectors. Launched in late 2010, the fabulously honeyed 1989 is now at a perfect age for enjoyment. Krug resisted producing rosés for a long time, but the Krug Rosé NV, produced since the mid-1980s, is an enchanting addition to the Krug series with its vinous baked quality.