Summer may be almost over, but the only champagne music festival on a private island is still to come, says Matthew Hardeman.
Formerly more the preserve of hazy hippies and fifteen year olds pushing over portaloos and drinking cans of warm Carling, from House Festival and Wilderness to ‘glamping’ at Glastonbury, festivals have been getting rather fancier of late – and fizzier.
On Thursday next week (1 September), French champagne house Krug are set to host a special event; Krug Island – a 24-hour musical and culinary celebration featuring chef Michael O’Hare, with Mick Jones of The Clash and Big Audio Dynamite fame presiding over all things audible.
For £449 per head, guests will enjoy lunch at Beach Blanket Babylon in Shoreditch before being transported from London to the exclusive Osea Island in the estuary of the River Blackwater, Essex, to enjoy a ‘sensory celebration’ of food, music and champagne.
Lineup highlights include the post-punk revivalists Mystery Jets, African-infused synth-pop singer and rising UK underground star Rationale (hotly tipped by the likes of Justin Timberlake and Pharrell Williams), new tropical-pop sensation Hollie Cook (daughter of Sex Pistols’ drummer Paul Cook), talented blues-tinged singer-songwriter Willow Robinson and electric, dance-floor fillers the Sugermen.
Culinary delights come courtesy of celebrated upstart chef O’Hare, known for Michelin-starred Leeds-based restaurant, ‘The Man Behind the Curtain.’
‘Dinner will be in three movements and will be treated with the same approach as the music; it will be entertaining and original,’ says O’Hare, who will be preparing dishes including dumpling of minced chicken and blackcurrant served with tuna, and doughnuts made with white chocolate and foie gras.
The first event of its kind, neither Krug or Osea are new to music – the island has previously hosted recording artists including Fleetwood Mac’s Peter Green, George Ezra, Labrinth, Noah and the Whale and Jessie J.
Directly accessible only for an hour each day due to tides, the exclusive island has been occupied for over 5,000 years. Previous owners ranging from William the Conquerer to Cambridge University (thanks to its unique ecology, rare plants, birds and marine life), and, perhaps ironically, to one of the world’s first temperance societies (it was also a top secret naval base during during the First World War). The remains of neolithic villages, and evidence of viking burial grounds from the battle of Maldon lie scattered around the island. Hardly restricted to a rich heritage, it boasts four square miles of unspoilt landscape, including beaches, fields and gardens – all of which will be open for Krug’s wandering guests to explore under what may be the last of the summer sun.
A continuation of Krug Music Pairings – the house’s ongoing mission to augment the champagne experience via experimentation with what it calls undiscovered ‘dimensions’ of taste – Krug hosted Spear’s at the Krug World Festival in Rome earlier this year, where guests were treated to a similar taster of its media and entertainment skills. This was showcased by beatboxer-cum-guitarist-vocalist-DJ-wunderkid Beardyman, and ‘blu-funk’ artist Keziah Jones, who didn’t take long to whip up the well-heeled attendees into a frenzy, culminating in a conga-line gyrating around centre stage.
Attendees also enjoyed a woozy morning plethora of workshops and events, each centred on the key talking points of Krug’s amalgamation of music, history, food, drink and tech, accompanied by a glass of its signature Grande Cuvée. A Joseph glass – a rather more shapely take on the crystal glass that allows the bubbles to peak in form, boosting the champagne’s aromas – was deemed ‘the only way’ to drink champagne, by Olivier Krug, perhaps the man most responsible for Krug’s innovative marketing approach (don’t mention flutes on Osea). ‘Whatever sip of Krug you have, you get the fullest expression of champagne,’ he says.
Eric Lebel, Krug’s chef de cave, selects from more than 120 different wines to recreate the unique blend of Grande Cuvée every year. Krug recently released an ‘incredibly special’ vintage – the Clos du Mesnil 2002.
‘2002 was a very special year,’ said Lebel. ‘It was clement and generous, consistently warm, relatively dry, granting ideal conditions for grape maturation.’
In Rome Michelin-starred chef Anthony Genovese (Restaurant Il Pagliaccio) was on hand to guide guests on the food front through a one-time workshop highlighting Krug’s official culinary endeavour for 2016: ‘the year of the egg’ (following from last year’s slightly less exotic-sounding, but equally sexy ‘year of the potato’).
Technology is also a foray of the maison that has gained some traction in previous PR campaigns, not least its much-vaunted ‘Krug ID’ system, which allows users to access the history and production secrets behind every bottle via a downloadable smartphone app.
It may sound like rather a lot of extra-curricular for a champagne maker, but Krug certainly believe they can pull it off. They allude to a hip heritage: the maison claims a history ‘inextricably’ linked to music since its founding in 1843 by Joseph Krug, who, it is said, believed that ‘savouring masterfully crafted champagne was akin to the emotion of listening to a piece of great music’.
His dream was to offer the very best champagne every single year regardless of annual climate flux. Today, under the guidance of Olivier Krug, the house offers seven different champagnes, ‘all of the same level of distinction, each an unforgettable journey’.
If events in Rome were anything to go by, Osea’s revellers are in for a party to remember – if they can stick to the champagne.
Tickets are available for £449 per head at Krugisland.com, inclusive of the following:
• Lunch at Beach Blanket Babylon in Shoreditch before departure to Osea Island
• KRUG Champagne throughout the experience
• Canapés and a three course Michael O’Hare dinner
• Transport from London to the Island and on return
• Bedroom accommodation on the island
• A breakfast before departure