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“This was no party of the year, it was the celebration of 25 centuries!” Orson Welles

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Dom Pérignon 1959 Rosé

The atmosphere was keyed up. All the necessary barbed wire fences had been erected around the huge gala venue. Special troops consisting of professional soldiers guarded the area, keeping the curious at bay. A number of private planes carrying diverse heads of state had already landed at the nearby Shiraz airport, and many more were on their way. A 200-million-dollar party was just beginning. Surrounded by steel spikes, in the depths of a huge cluster of marquees, 306 bottles of the first-ever vintage of Dom Pérignon Rosé champagne impatiently awaited the royal gourmands.

The 2,500-year anniversary of the Persian Empire was one of the most flamboyant society events of the twentieth century. Planning of the event had begun in the late 1950s, and it climaxed in a gala dinner held on 14 August 1971. The light-coloured leather seats of 250 red Mercedes-Benz limousines carried 600 guests of honour, including royals and heads of state, to a huge serpentine table, where they would enjoy the world’s most lavish dinner.

The dinner was made and served by the world-renowned Parisian establishment Maxim’s, which was forced to close down its restaurant in Paris for several weeks due to the festivities.

For almost six months the Imperial Iranian Air Force made repeated sorties between Shiraz and Paris, flying goods which were then trucked carefully in army lorries to Persepolis. Each month, supplies were driven down the desert highway to deliver building materials for the Jansen-designed air-conditioned tents, Italian drapes and curtains, Baccarat crystal, Limoges china with the Pahlavi coat of arms, Porthault linens, an exclusive Robert Havilland cup-and-saucer service and 5,000 bottles of wine (including a 1945 Château Lafite Rothschild).

The event was officially opened with a toast of Dom Pérignon Rosé 1959 champagne.
The dinner started off with quails’ eggs filled with caviar from the Caspian Sea. The host, the Shah of Iran, was actually allergic to caviar and had to settle for an artichoke dish. Next came a mousse of crayfish tails, which was nicely complemented by a Château Haut-Brion Blanc from 1964.

The celebrated 1945 vintage of Château Lafite Rothschild added some elegance and a dash of soft tannins to the third course of roast saddle of lamb with truffles. Before the main course, the guests’ taste buds were refreshed by a champagne sorbet and a taste of the Moët & Chandon vintage champagne from 1911, created during the Champagne Riots. The main course was Iran’s ancient national symbol, peacock, stuffed with foie gras. The 50 roast birds decorated with peacock tail feathers were a stunning sight on the dinner table. The Comte de Vogué Musigny from 1945, a soft Pinot Noir, was chosen to contribute a suitable depth and structure to the meal. The Dom Pérignon Rosé champagne from 1959 was also chosen to accompany the dessert of glazed Oporto ring of fresh figs with cream and raspberry champagne sherbet.

The six hundred guests dined for over five and a half hours, making this the longest and most lavish official banquet in modern history, as recorded in successive editions of the Guinness Book of World Records. In the words of Orson Welles, “This was no party of the year, it was the celebration of 25 centuries!”

1959 was the first vintage of Dom Pérignon Rosé. The first bottles of such glamorous quality, considered the “jewel of Dom Pérignon”, were first set on lees in the Dom Pérignon cellars in 1960, with only 306 bottles released. The vintage was only presented at the celebration of the Persian Empire; it was never commercially released. As Richard Geoffroy, Dom Pérignon’s Chef de Cave, says, it was a turning point: “Dom Pérignon Rosé vintage 1959 is a rare, superlative, mythical vintage. Powerful and solar, its light will inspire the creation of Dom Pérignon Rosé forever.” Geoffroy also told us that there are only a few bottles left in the Dom Pérignon cellars. “Looking back, I think of the creator of the Dom Pérignon Rosé 1959 – René Philipponnat. I contemplate what has become of Dom Pérignon’s legacy: his ambition to pioneer rosé wines at a new level; the start of the Dom Pérignon Rosé adventure that generated the other expression of Dom Pérignon. Looking forward, it is my duty to live up to this heritage and keep pushing and taking risks to make an ever more provocative rosé.”

The Dom Pérignon Rosé 1959 vintage reached a record price of USD 84,700 at a historic rare champagne auction in New York, overseen by Acker Merrall & Condit. In this, their first ever public sale, the Dom Pérignon Rosé 1959 “rarer than rare” bottles were estimated at USD 5,000–7,000, but were acquired for the astronomical price by a wine investor.

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