It was once the hunting lodge and family residence of the Moët family. This venerable Chateau is now used to show the lucky few the iconic brand Dom Pérignon, in a fittingly breathtaking setting. We were there to taste the newest release, the seductive 2004 vintage, and to gain an insight into what makes this champagne the luxury wine it is today.
takes risks and embraces challenges. This is, and has always been, their mantra. Each vintage they dare to reinvent, to reveal the wine's ‘soul’ through the unique characteristics that each year gives. Every bottle gives the drinker a glimpse into that vintage’s identity and Dom Pérignon
’s philosophy for that year. It is a fascinating adventure to be taken on. Moët & Chandon
own 1500 hectares in total and it takes about 2000 people to harvest. This ensures the grapes selected to go into the blend of their prestige cuvee, Dom Pérignon
, come from the best, most sunlit sites, thus giving them the cream of what each vintage has to offer. The creation of every vintage starts with best of the best and if it is not good enough they simply do not make it.
Winemaker Vincent Chaperon relishes the challenge of thinking afresh every vintage. In his view, Dom Pérignon’s
vision is all about the ‘lees’ and how long the wine stays on them , as this gives you the true expression of that vintage of champagne. Everything possible is done to reduce oxidation. Oak casks were used up until the 1964 vintage; since then it has been exclusively stainless steel.
Vincent described to us that Dom Pérignon
can have 3 different stages of being at the optimum point of release. These are known as ‘plénitudes’ . At the first plénitude they would look to release a vintage after 7 to 9 years in the cellar; they taste this wine every six months to a year. The second plénitude, 10 to 20 years after the vintage is tasted once a year and often results in the first Oeonothèque release of that vintage; while the third plénitude comes after 25 to 40 years and results in the second Oeonothèque release. These bottles are generally only tasted every 2 years.
In keeping with Dom Pérignon’s
philosophy on extended lees ageing, the Oenotheque wines, released at an optimal moment in their development, generally possess even greater depth, richness and complexity than their straight vintage siblings. The oldest Oeonothèque is the 1959.
Though the final blend varies with every vintage, they try to run with an assemblage of 50% Pinot noir and 50% Chardonnay. It is a beautiful blend of power and elegance, despite the large production. The richness and intensity of the Pinot balances beautifully with the elegance of the Chardonnay, allowing the champagne to withstand the test of time and age very gracefully.
The first vintage of Dom Pérignon was 1921, since then there have been 40 more until the release of the 2004: 1921, 1926, 1928, 1929, 1934, 1943, 1947, 1949, 1952, 1953, 1955, 1959, 1961, 1962, 1964, 1966, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1973, 1975, 1976, 1978, 1980, 1982, 1983, 1985, 1988, 1990, 1992, 1993, 1995, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003 and 2004.
The first vintage of Dom Pérignon Rosé was 1959, since then 22 vintages have been produced until 2002: 1959, 1962, 1964, 1966, 1969, 1971, 1973, 1975, 1978, 1980, 1982, 1985, 1986, 1988, 1990, 1992, 1993, 1995, 1996, 1998, 2000 and 2002.
During our visit I had the great fortune to taste the following wines within the Abbey of Hautvillars, which has been lovingly and sympathetically restored. The exclusivity of what we were about to embark on was told to us as soon as we started; Vincent said, ‘we do tastings like this once or twice a year’, that got me seriously excited!2005 vintage:
not yet released, but we were told it is going to be a year of selection and one of the biggest vintages they have seen.2004 vintage:
52% Pinot Noir, 48% Chardonnay, known as the ‘dark revelation’. Very elegant, has finesse, taught and racy, very mineral. Toasted almonds, hints of flower petals mixed with citrus notes, limestone and oyster shells. Strict on the palate, glimpses of the nose echoed on the complex, but mineral back palate. Very drinkable now, but will age gracefully. Spice and toast with fresh concentration and a long racy mineral finish. Charming, and utterly delicious. Drinking now and very age-worthy. According to Vincent the vintage and style is comparable to 1970 which we tasted at dinner after the 2004.2003 vintage:
Rich and brooding. Smoke, powerful depth of fruit, deeper style than the 04, less strict and mineral. The 03 possesses broad structure, richness and flamboyance. However, it is in no way fat or flabby and still retains poise. Hints of tropical fruit, very well integrated and balanced. The unique style of the 03 vintage shows great character. Long and dry on finish. This is the vintage that shows DP’s risk-taking. One of the earliest harvested on record, 1822, 2003, 2007 and 2011 were all harvested in August and have a higher percentage of Pinot Noir. It will not be everyone’s style, but I really enjoyed its individuality. I also feel this will age still further.1996 Oenotheque – Disgorged 2003:
Charming and very inviting with floral and citrus hints on the nose. Palate somewhat richer, smoke, fresh coffee and strong mineral notes intermingled with white pepper, brioche, pastry and vanilla, giving a wonderful creamy roundness. Great length, very intense, balanced acidity. Seductive. This vintage was a great commercial success, but not a wine makers vintage whereas 2002 was - hard selection and work was needed.1970 Oenotheque
– Disgorged 2006, Creamy complexity, broad and rich. If this were a wine it would be a mix of Riesling and Puligny Montrachet. The salty, oiliness of the Riesling with its lively acidity and the stony, citrus, raciness of the Puligny. Notes of herbs, mint, toasted brioche, white chocolate, orange flowers, vanilla and praline. Savory, but elegant. The complexity and freshness of this ‘wine’ is breathtaking. Bright well balanced, with a haunting finish. Outstanding. Enjoyed this at dinner after the 2004 vintage, they feel this is a similar vintage to 04.1971 Oenotheque En Magnum:
Elegance and brooding power combined. Butterscotch, praline, toasted brioche and spice, giving layered depth and complexity. The 71 Oenotheque is rich opulence. If I compare it to a wine it would be much more of a Meursault/Montrachet in style than the Puligny/riesling racey styled 1970.It Has more weight, but at the same time retains its freshness. It is quiet explosive in power, with fine bubbles that ooze class. Still showing tension and has a wonderful bright colour. The flavour in the finish is deliciously long and moorish. Sublime.Rosé Flight:
Made predominately with Pinot Noir grapes from Ay and Bouzy, which get the most maturity by being blessed with mostly south-facing sites. 2003 Rosé:
Dark red forest fruits, blackberry, dark morrello cherry, with hints of strawberry coulis. Broad structure and masculine power. Quite brooding with dark deep phenolic’s, lots of fruit and mineral complexity, seductive flavours. Drinking now. Similar to 1978 vintage.
Stark contrast of personality here to the 2003. Very lively and playful, scented roses and spring flowers. Still quite tight and youthful. Palate full bodied in style and very intense hints of pretty red fruits going through to darker mineral structure. Elegant, bright and racy; beautiful. Very good indeed, very pretty and inviting to drink now, however I think given time this will flesh out and be outstanding!1993 Enotheque Rosé:
A very elegant fine nose, touches and hints of dried Rose, hoi-sin sauce, soy, cinnamon, tea. Very beautiful. Palate very elegant, delicate notes of fruit intermingled with mineral and limestone. This wine still has power, but the balance of structure, fruit and acidity are so harmonious, it floats effortlessly.1992 Enotheque Rosé:
This nose reminds me of a whisky, very distinctive. Sandalwood, peat, iodine, and smoke, leading in to a herbaceous forest floor and dried oyster mushroom. Palate has all components of the nose and remains dark, deep and smokey. But once again there is freshness. Very individual in style, quite challenging for me.1985 Enotheque Rosé En Magnum Disgogred 2010
, fig, ground coffee, compote of red fruits. Notes of hoi-sin sauce, sweet alpine strawberry along with oyster mushroom notes. Again toasted brioche notes and minerals. Very lively, fresh long finish. 1985 had exceptional weather condition. Quite Delicious. Really enjoyed this.1982 Enotheque En Magnum:
prune, fig, rich mature fruits, coco, vanilla, rich nutty fruit cake on the front palate, this leads to brighter and prettier fruit on the back palate. Broad but elegant structure, amazing focus with a lovely savory edge. Vibrant with integrated acidity, very harmonious with a silky mouth-feel. Outstanding!
Hand on heart I can honestly say, drink more vintage champagne, especially Dom Perignon, whose vintage Champagnes are so seductive, complex and age worthy; they are nothing short of magnificent!!
- Private Client Sales Manager