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The Unsuspecting Thing You Should Be Pairing with Your Champagne

Margareth Henríquez, president and CEO of Krug Champagne, on the importance of creating an experience around Champagne and the best way to enjoy Krug’s Champagnes now that we’re all spending so much time at home.

Krug Champagne. Photo by Ben Maria

Once upon a time, when events were still held, there was a private tasting put on by Moët Hennessy to celebrate the pioneering women behind their brands. We were treated to wine and food pairings, but upon arriving at the third course, we were treated to a musical pairing, as well. That’s right: Krug’s Champagne was accompanied by both steak and a musical selection, specially curated by president and CEO Margareth Henríquez. The idea to bring music and wine together in this way came to her after she discovered “the unique relationship between sound perception and taste.” Because of Henríquez, when you pick up a bottle of Krug Champagne, you’ll find a six-digit code on the back called the Krug iD, which allows consumers to access the original music pairing, along with food suggestions, the story behind your chosen bottle and more. Henríquez recently spoke to Worth about the inspiration behind Krug’s musical pairings, the Krug iD and the best way to experience Krug’s libations now that we’re all spending so much time at home.

Margareth Henríquez. Photo by Jenny Zarins

Q: How did you come up with the idea of pairing original music with Krug’s Champagnes?

A: Since its foundation in 1843, the House of Krug has sought new ways to enrich the tasting experience of its Champagnes. Nearly a decade ago, when I discovered the unique relationship between sound perception and taste, my instinct led me to explore how the interaction of different sensations could enhance the pleasure of a glass of Krug. The concept of food pairing is well-known to us all, so music became the natural analogy for us to speak of our Champagnes and craftsmanship.

Based on various experiments with music, as well as recent scientific evidence, we have been able to bring to life the Krug universe through music pairings, immersive experiences, unconventional tastings and events at the House. With Krug Echoes, we go beyond the traditional boundaries and connect with Krug lovers in a nontechnical, universal language that is easy to understand—one that conveys sensation and pleasure.

What is the process for selecting the musician and recording the music?

Each year, we invite musicians from all around the world, in whose standards of excellence we feel a kinship, to visit the Krug Family House for an extended tasting of our Champagnes. They discover our history and heritage, sharing musical and gastronomic experiences with House of Krug deputy director and former cellar master, Éric Lebel. Inspired by what they taste, these artists go home and create compositions custom-tailored to reflect what they felt and how they connected to the experience of Krug Champagnes. Many of them stay in contact with Éric during this process and discuss with him prior to presenting their work. By associating music with our Champagnes, we continue our quest to enhance the tasting of Krug Champagnes while enabling Champagne lovers to discover new experiences.

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How do you determine what the song should be for each wine? And is it one song per Champagne, or is it a playlist?

It is the musicians who decide, purely based on the sensations they feel during their tasting, whether they will create a unique song for the Champagne or Champagnes that inspire them. As there are no sensations imposed, there can be no rules. Everyone experiences the tasting in a unique way, so there are as many music pairings as there are possible sensations. Over the years, the House, in collaboration with these musicians, has developed a full spectrum of musical experiences designed to awaken the senses—not only of guests at the House in Reims, France and visitors to international Krug events, but also to the larger community as a whole, as playlists and podcasts are available online, making Krug Echoes accessible to anyone.

How do you choose the musician?

This can vary greatly. Last year, for example, we collaborated with Emmy Award-winning composer and pianist Kris Bowers for the Créations de 2006 collection. This artist is known for his genre-defying music rooted in jazz, which resonates with our own values as a House. He came to Krug for a daylong immersion into our universe with Éric Lebel. The two stayed in touch as Bowers created his scores, reflecting the personalities of Krug 2006 and Krug Grande Cuvée 164ème edition. With both compositions, he conveys the unique story of each Champagne, as well as the sensations he felt when tasting.

I know you have worked with physicians at Oxford University and the IRCAM in France to explore the science behind the connection between music and Champagne. What have you found? How does music affect the experience and taste of Champagne?

While pairing music with Champagne is at heart a sensorial journey, the symbiotic relationship was so strong that, in 2013, we decided to explore the scientific connection between sound and taste. According to Oxford researchers, music can have an influence on a wine tasting by amplifying specific sensations, thereby creating a unique experience. Spurred by this revelation, in 2017, we entered into a partnership with IRCAM—the Institute for Research and Coordination in Acoustics/Music—to create an immersive auditory experience. In an 18-month workshop, Éric Lebel, three IRCAM researchers, two sound engineers and Chilean composer Roque Rivas worked together to co-create 10 soundscapes to acoustically portray the most striking characteristics of 10 individual wines used in Krug Champagne.

The resulting scores demonstrate the unique contribution of each to the final blend of Krug Grande Cuvée. Today, the experience takes place beside the Wall of 400 Wines in the Krug Family House. All creations have been designed for a 360-degree ambisonic system to ensure the parallels between taste and sound are most clearly emphasized.

Krug iD. Photo by Michael Ferire

Now, tell me about the Krug iD.

Since 2011, the House invites Champagne lovers to enter the Krug iD—six digits printed on the back label of every Krug bottle—in a dedicated section of the Krug website, using the Krug app, or via Twitter or Google, to take their experience one step further. The Krug iD reveals a detailed story of the Krug bottle, the cellar master’s impressions of the year, Krug music pairing suggestions, food pairing inspiration, as well as recommendations for ideal storage and service to enhance every tasting of Krug Champagne.

Why is it so important for Krug to create an experience around its Champagnes?

From the House’s founder, Joseph Krug, we inherited an uncompromising philosophy and commitment to excellence. He pushed the boundaries of Champagne creation back in the 1800s, understanding that the true essence of Champagne is pleasure itself. Today, we continue with his way of thinking, as we are always looking to enhance the tasting experience and making use of digital innovations to share it with as many people as possible.

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What is the best way to experience Krug’s champagnes while we’re all spending so much time at home?

We would recommend the right glass at the right temperature. In 2011, we partnered with Riedel to craft the Joseph glass to most generously reveal the fullness of flavors and aromas of Krug Grande Cuvée. If you do not have a Joseph glass, a white wine glass should be used, but never a flute. We recommend our Champagnes be served between 9 degrees Celsius and 12 degrees Celsius, as colder temperatures limit the expression of their flavors and aromas. Additionally, I would invite anyone with a bottle of Krug to enter its Krug iD online or via the Krug app to discover food pairing inspiration and music pairing suggestions, both of which can be enjoyed at home.

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