Champagne, Uncorked: The House of Krug and the Timeless Allure of the World’s Most Celebrated Drink by Alan Tardi
Aah, Champagne! Any book written about this most joyful of libations is bound to pique interest. And this one, by Alan Tardi, a former chef, restaurant owner, award-winning food and wine writer, is a fun and educational book to read.
What makes this book different from many others is that Alan was able to spend time at the House of Krug and allowed to access key people as well as the inner workings of this prestigious Champagne manufacturer. He deftly interweaves the history of champagne with that of the Krug family, making for an enjoyable segue between the dryer, technical aspects of champagne making and the personal, historical descriptions of the Krug family.
While Tardi does get into the technical details of grape-growing, wine-making, and ageing of Champagne wines, he does so in such a light manner that it is easy to understand for novices and amateurs, yet is not too simple for professionals, such as sommeliers and wine students. He also picked the right house to focus on, in my opinion. Krug has an aura and prestige that surpasses that of many other Champagne houses, arguably due to quality and perhaps price, but mostly, thanks to their particular house style, which is very different from the other houses. In the end of course, it is always a matter of personal taste, which is why there are many different houses.
What I appreciated are Tardi’s descriptions of the Krug family – always modest, humble, hard-working people, including their present-day staff: as when he describes the selection of the ‘vins clairs’ that will become part of that year’s blend of wines for the non-vintage champagne. There is no arrogance, – all aspects of the job appear to be taken very seriously. For example, harvest time is quite stressful, given the French regulations regarding start and finish dates, which may or may not reflect actual maturity or readiness for picking.
Tardi paints a complete picture of the Champagne industry: its challenges, the future of supply and demand (always a thorny issue), its place in the world as a justified and affordable luxury product and finally the evolution of the industry as the ownership of established houses increasingly passes into the hands of luxury magnates.
My only quibble with the author/editors inserting French words and expressions throughout is that there does not seem to be a fluent French speaker/reader to confirm spelling, gender, etc. I have picked out close to a dozen instances that should be amended.
Champagne, Uncorked: The House of Krug and the Timeless Allure of the World’s Most Celebrated Drink, Alan Tardi, 296 pp, Publicaffairs. Available in HC May 24, 2016