Julie Cavil: Krug’s Reine de Remuage


The first female winemaker appointed Chef de Cave at Krug has no plans to rock the boat, finds James Lawrence.

In a recent chat with Julie Cavil, we discover how she came to winemaking in Champagne, and what it means to work for Krug – one of the region’s most reputable houses.

Did your childhood involve vines, vignerons and vendage?

Actually, I grew up in central France – a region where there are no vines in sight!

So you didn’t have childhood dreams of becoming a winemaker?

[Laughs] I have a rather unusual background, as I had a previous life working at an advertising agency in Paris, where I was an account director and met my husband. Both of us are wine-lovers and it became my dream (as an adult) to pursue a career in this field. Our passion drove us to Champagne in 2002 where I went back to school and studied oenology, despite the fact that I was somewhat of an anomaly at the time; not from the region, older than the other students and already a mother. This did not matter because I was so determined. When I was ready to choose the maison I would join, Krug opened its doors to me with the generosity so characteristic of the House. In my case, it was Éric who shared his experience, passion and skill, taking me under his wing in 2006, when my Krug story first began.

But was there another career path you could have followed?

Communication, as that was my first career choice. I also love foreign languages.

Nevertheless, waving au revoir to a successful job in advertising must have taken guts.

I am proud to have had the courage to completely change career paths in my 30s, leaving behind the comfort of my advertising job to embark upon something new. I would encourage anyone who has such a dream to pursue it and take the roundabout path in life, savoring the moments shared and relationships built. It is not a race, and it is never too late!

When you first started working with your predecessor Éric Lebel, did you always imagine taking on this role?

At some point after my arrival, we had mutually chosen each other. It was very natural.

Now that you have the top job, will we be seeing changes at Krug?

As Chef de Cave, my role at Krug is threefold: it relates to the present, past and future. It begins with the recreation of a new Édition of Krug Grande Cuvée each year. I also have a duty to the next generation – to protect the longevity of the House and prepare the younger members of our team. Yet we are open to change – the Krug iD and Krug App are great examples of how technology has helped us share more about the house with the world. Being true to our founding philosophy does not prevent us from being open-minded.

Preserving Krug's reputation means honoring the past as well as the present and future.

| Preserving Krug’s reputation means honoring the past as well as the present and future.

Apart from Éric Lebel, is there a winemaker you particularly admire/take inspiration from?

It would have to be Henri Jayer, the late winegrower and winemaker from Burgundy. Although I did not have the chance to meet him, I continue to be inspired by his conviction and generosity. Every year, I am fortunate enough to attend the “Rencontres Henri Jayer”, an annual event bringing together a handful of winegrowers committed to the idea of expressing the taste of a place. There are a thousand reasons to admire Henri Jayer, for the excellence of his wines of course, the progress he has made in winemaking, or for the way he has passed on the high standards of his passion to the next generation.

Above all, it is his minimalist approach in the cellars and the importance he gave back to the vineyards that motivates me and reinforces what I learned from the previous generations at Krug.

Krug is poised to launch its 2008 – a much feted vintage. When you first tasted the vin clairs from 2008, what were your initial impressions?

The grapes harvested were all in perfect health but there was vast heterogeneity between the different plots, which was reflected in their individual wines. We had to be patient with them, as many were a little tight at first, shy in their expression. After a few months later, they revealed themselves as round and elegantly aromatic. The Chardonnays from all of our plots were particularly praiseworthy in 2008, which gave us many good reserve wines for future Editions of the Grande Cuvée. The Meuniers also expressed themselves very well in 2008, while the Pinots Noirs were a little more understated. Overall, the tasting committee was very pleased with the base wines of 2008, with some of the most common descriptors emerging being: intensity, richness, breadth, structure, and beautiful freshness.

Krug is one of the last houses to release a 2008 – what are the benefits of subjecting your wines to such a long period of lees–ageing?

At Krug, time is our constant ally and every decision we make is based on tastings. In the case of Krug 2008, this Champagne needed these years to achieve the remarkable elegance and intensity you can enjoy today. We do not rush nature, rather we allow the Champagne to develop tranquilly in our cellars.

The word in Champagne is that 2021 was a very challenging and tempestuous vintage. Your thoughts?

It has been a challenging year for everyone, and I make it a habit not to comment on a particular year until the grapes are harvested and the wines are born. Even then, I would need to follow their evolution over time because each year, our six-member Tasting committee will audition around 250 plots’ wines of the year, in addition to the 150 plots’ wines in our vast library. In total, we record around 4000 tasting notes before any blending decision is made. While I do look at individual wines, I also consider the music they could play when combined with other wines of different plots and years.

Krug lovers tend to be aficionados of great food – what is the most unusual or exotic food you’ve ever enjoyed with a glass of Krug?

It may surprise you but sometimes the simplest creations can feel the most exotic. When I joined 11 Krug Ambassador Chefs on the ‘Krug Onion Single Ingredient’ trip to Jaipur, we explored the onion in all its different forms and interpretations. I particularly recall at a neighboring farm, where our hosts warmly welcomed us, we enjoyed barbecued onions they cooked outdoors. This simple preparation made me intensely aware of the layered nuances of our humble ingredient and gave it a delightfully varied texture that paired beautifully with a glass of Krug Grande Cuvée.

When you’re not working – or enjoying onions – what do you do to relax?

I love spending time with my friends and family.

How much travel do you get to do for pleasure, rather than work?

This can vary from year to year. But the wonderful thing about France is that you can drive an hour and effectively travel to a different region.

Finally – weekend tipple of choice?

It really depends. From time to time, I enjoy a great Cuban rum.