Called “the Mozart of bubbly,” Eric Lebel, Krug’s chef de caves, or cellar master, joined the 1843 Champagne house in 1999, appointed by fifth-generation winemaker Henri Krug.
Every year, to create his legendary Grande Cuvée, Lebel and his team collect some 5,000 tasting notes, spanning new grapes grown across 250 plots, plus some 150 reserve wines. He somehow also finds the time to draft personal notes about the composition of every single blend. If you happen to treat yourself to a Grande Cuvée, enter its six-digit identification number or scan its label into the Krug app, and you’ll find Lebel’s insights as well as suggested pairings and playlists.
On a recent snowy visit to New York, Lebel sat down with VinePair to discuss his desert-island wine, the best bottle in his cellar, and his love for all things Champagne.
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1. What’s the bottle that made you fall in love with wine?
I was born and raised in Champagne and it was the region, not a bottle in particular, that made me fall in love.
2. FMK three varieties: Cabernet, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay
F: Chardonnay, because it is radiant, gleaming, luminous and festive but also gains with the passage of time. M: Pinot Noir. It also gains beautifully over the years – it lasts – and it is more striking and expressive, with great breadth. K: Cabernet. I like it, but we see it everywhere.
3. What’s your last-supper wine?
I would pick the Champagne that evokes the most emotion in me, which would have to be Krug Grande Cuvée. Each edition of Krug Grande Cuvée takes me back to a different time in the past.
4. You can only drink one wine for the rest of your life. What is it?
Without any doubt: Krug Grande Cuvée. This relates to my previous answer because, as each edition of Krug Grande Cuvée has the same inspiration but is a unique and different creation, I could enjoy it day after day with a new experience each time.
5. You can only drink at one bar for the rest of your life. What is it?
This is a tough choice! In New York, I love Compagnie des Vins Surnaturel but in France, I would have to say the Krug tasting room.
6. What’s the best and worst wine on your rack (or in your fridge) right now?
In my cellar there are no bad wines, sorry! In terms of the best, I have great Champagnes from growers, who – I am very honored to say – deliver to Krug. They have created some exceptional cuvées. And I can confess, I have old Clos du Mesnil in magnums as well.
7. If you could no longer drink wine, what would be your beverage of choice?
As I am not a cocktail person, I would have to say Hennessy Cognac. This spirit can be quite complex and vary depending on blend and the influence of time. They can reveal extraordinary aromatics and I have great respect for the craftsmanship behind these bottles.