Early this year, Krug Champagne’s new chef de cave quietly stepped into the shoes of the house’s longtime winemaker, Eric Lebel. And for the first time in Krug’s 175-year history, those shoes have high heels.
Julie Cavil, an assistant chef de cave at Krug since 2006, formally assumed her new role in January. The change paves the way for the appointment of Lebel as deputy director of Krug, working on interdisciplinary projects within Krug’s majority owner, LVMH Moët Hennessy, after 21 years as chef de cave.
Cavil is not the first female chef de cave among Champagne’s grandes marques. But her new title adds strength to the growing number of women in leadership roles in the historically male-dominated Champagne industry. Yet Cavil gives little thought to the significance of her gender, instead explaining that this transfer has been in the works for more than a decade.
“I joined Krug in 2006 …. [After] one or two years, it was like a mutual choice,” says Cavil. “That there would be a natural transmission [of knowledge and experience], together, and that I would work for a number of years at Eric’s side.”
Before joining Krug, Cavil attended enology school in Champagne and earned internship experience working four harvests at Moët & Chandon and Dom Pérignon, also owned by LVMH Moët Hennessy. However, Cavil’s winemaking represents a second chapter in her professional life. In 2002, Cavil and her husband decided to eschew their comfortable life in Paris, pursuing what she refers to as their ‘life project,’ a dream of quieter living and raising their family closer to nature.
“It was a matter of taste,” says Cavil, describing her path to wine. “I’m not from Champagne—I’m from the center of France—so when I had to choose what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, at 17 years old, enology was far from my mind.” But at business school, and then during her work for a Paris-based advertising agency, she was exposed to wine. “At that time, the taste came.” What started as casual tastings with friends led to professionally organized events, spurring Cavil to learn about wine on her own. Eventually, Cavil’s enthusiastic hobby intersected with her family’s ‘life project,’ and the move to Champagne afforded the opportunity to turn her passion for wine into a career.
Though Cavil’s time in Champagne got off to a novel start, after almost 20 years in the region, her work ethic and drive has merited a lauded position at one of the region’s most esteemed houses.
“I’m very proud, and [I take the position] with a great sense of responsibility, but also a lot of confidence,” says Cavil, citing the well-thought and long-term training she received from Lebel, as well as the talented team with whom she works, as the strengths that will help her succeed.
“I must admit, if you had told me at 17 that I would [one day] be living in Reims, working as a winemaker, at Krug—I’m not sure I would have believed you,” laughs Cavil. But, as she points out, it’s not until protagonists reinvent themselves that many of the most exciting stories become interesting.
Follow Alison Napjus on Instagram at @napjuswine.