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    My Column

    The 2016 Vintage by Richard Geoffroy / I have mentioned years of extremes in the past: 2016 might be a year of extremes to the point of excess, with such a stark contrast between the seasons. The spring, during which we had to deal with hail and frost as well as the most precipitations and the least sunshine in the last 20 years, was very taxing. To the contrary, the month of August was drier and became warmer at the end, to the point of sunburn for some grapes.

    All these excesses combined with the diversity of our terroirs created very heterogenous circumstances for growth and maturity. Our typical harvest pattern was profoundly modified. For once we started in the Chardonnay terroirs later than in the Pinot Noir: Avize was picked three days after Hautvillers! In the end we had to be very reactive and constantly adapt our picking itineraries to these exceptional conditions.

     

    The harvest started in Champagne on September 13, shortly after the heatwave of late August, early September. The rainfall on the week-end of Sep 17-18 worried us at a moment where grapes were so fragile. Fortunately the sun immediately came back and we experienced once again the “Champagne miracle”: everything progressed without further delays or complications until end of September.

    Without having started tasting the wines yet, our intuition from harvest is that some Pinots Noirs, in particular from the Grand Cru vineyards of Aÿ and Bouzy, could be majestic. Chardonnays will certainly show a nice citrusy freshness; but will they reach enough complexity to enter a Dom Pérignon assemblage?

     

    The story of the 2016 vintage is yet to be written…

     

     

     

    The Vintage

    2002. 2003. 2004. 2005. 2006. I have already mentioned the special significance—for me—of declaring five vintages of Dom Pérignon in a row. Evidently nature was bountiful during that first decade of the millenium. There was more to it than mere chance regarding the climate, though, as I have alluded to: perseverance, dedication, teamwork.

    All this ties in to the specific stance of Dom Pérignon when it comes to vintages. Our intent is to rise to the aesthetic ideal of Dom Pérignon—its singularity. The character of the year, brought on by the passing of seasons and by the whim of nature, is the constraint. The act of creation happens when the intent meets the constraint: Dom Pérignon emerges from the tension between these two poles.

    I can assert that every year we perform each of our tasks with the same ultimate goal in mind: to declare the vintage. This implies tough decisions, a risk-taking mindset, innovative solutions and sometimes sacrifices. We cannot compromise on the quality of the grapes, on the maturity of the harvest. We invariably go through the whole sequence of winemaking, and rigorous selection process of the wines until we reach the assemblage. Only then, at the end of a 7-month effort, can we decide whether to declare a vintage or not.

    Whenever we do, it is an accomplishment, and in itself, the reward. A new Vintage is born, contributing another stone to Dom Pérignon’s edifice: to get ever closer to harmony in our quest to create emotions.

     

     

    The story of Dom Pérignon Vintage 2006 is a story of patience and confidence. 

     

     

    The story of Dom Pérignon Vintage 2006 is a story of patience and confidence with parallel trajectories in the vineyard and in the cellar. Taking our time was the great challenge of 2006, to give ourselves the freedom to create the vintage.

    The climate of 2006 was overall hot and dry albeit irregular, with three phases over the summer: first a heatwave in July, then a sudden slowdown with a cool and humid month of August, and finally an improvement in September to which I can say we owe the vintage. The inertia of the heatwave was strong enough to guarantee remarkable ripeness, but only for those patient and discerning enough to wait until the perfect moment to harvest. As a consequence the harvest lasted nearly four weeks, one of the longest on record.

    In the cellar, the maturation of Dom Pérignon 2006 vintage was slow, very slow—even slower than usual. The first signs of Plénitude didn’t appear until very late, and it was not until 2015 that the comprehensiveness and harmony of the first Plénitude were finally revealed. Time didn’t matter: we felt as confident in the vines reaching full ripeness as in the wine entering its first Plénitude.

    Time is of the essence: this is as true in the vineyard as it is in the cellar. Time is not predictable: it is organic, active, and energetic. Time flows at its own non-linear pace: a constraint that needs to be transcended to open new spaces for creativity. My work as a chef de cave is to witness the action of time, to enable it to reach its full course, and to pass down this knowledge to the future generations of chefs de cave at Dom Pérignon.

     

     

    Bottles of fine wine can age gracefully and improve with time, developing what the experts call tertiary aromas, usually at the expense of fruit. Assuming proper storage conditions, it matters little whether the cellars where this happens are located in Paris, New York or Tokyo: the outcome will be the same. Not (always) so much with Champagne, however.

    Indeed the specificity of Champagne, since its origins, is that it undergoes a secondary fermentation inside the bottle. This is what creates the fizz that once had Dom Pierre Pérignon enthusiastically exclaim “Come, I am drinking stars!” when he first tasted the sparkling wine that is now celebrated all over the world. The yeast performing this secondary fermentation turns into lees that remain in the bottle until it is disgorged. Then and only then is it fit to be tasted by Champagne lovers, and to be stored like any other bottle of fine wine for future enjoyment. However what happens when a bottle is not disgorged? The lees participate in a mysterious evolution of the wine in the bottle, singular to each cuvée and carefully monitored by the Chef de Cave.

     

    In the case of Dom Pérignon, it is a slow yet active maturation, keeping each vintage alive and bafflingly— insolently—youthful. The wine continues to evolve and be magnified. A confounding process: wouldn’t we all like to mature yet remain young? This is the paradox of Dom Pérignon and it makes all the difference in the world.

    Each vintage of Dom Pérignon is disgorged and (re)released only when I consider it has reached a new Plénitude, a privileged period of time when Dom Pérignon attains its radiance. Its development comes in successive plateaux which define as many windows of expression I decided to call Plénitudes: the wine then tells us a story that is new and exciting enough to be worth sharing.

    After around nine years, Dom Pérignon reaches its first Plénitude and is called Dom Pérignon Vintage. The first Plénitude shows promise, completeness and harmony. Everything is in place. Our new release is Dom Pérignon Vintage 2006.

     

    Some years later, the wine reaches its second Plénitude: this is Dom Pérignon P2. Stored deep into our cellar, the slow yeast maturation taking place in the bottle is inimitable and irreproducible. Dom Pérignon in its second Plénitude is more intense, precise and vibrant, energized by the transformation. A true metamorphosis: its universe has expanded. Dom Pérignon P2 1998 is being currently released.

    Finally, the third Plénitude, Dom Pérignon P3, is reached after a longer period of over twenty five years. At this venerable age, all the components are completely integrated and the wine has become more streamlined and complex than ever. The third Plénitude reveals the heritage of Dom Pérignon, a living memory passed down through the generations of Chefs de Cave.

    Many Dom Pérignon lovers like to compare the trajectories of a bottle of Dom Pérignon Vintage, stored at their place, side by side with a bottle of Dom Pérignon P2 or P3 longer stored on its lees in our cellars in Epernay. The three Plénitudes side by side is the ultimate horizontal tasting of one and only vintage. Each wine—each Plénitude—will reveal a different facet of Dom Pérignon: P2 and P3, thanks to the extra time spent maturating on their lees under our careful attention, will grant you an experience ever closer to the Spirit of Dom Pérignon.

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    My Yesterday

    When the 2015 harvest started, I mentioned that the main challenge would be to deal with the heterogeneity of the maturities. Thankfully the rainfalls of late August were a real blessing, providing much needed relief to the vines. The other decisive factor was the care we put in picking each vineyard at the perfect date. Both combined allowed us to smooth out the perceived disparity between vineyards.

    The beautiful weather at the beginning of the harvest lasted for over a week, before some more rainfalls. These were quickly forgotten given the drought that prevailed during the year. The maturation kept its momentum and followed its planned trajectory, while the sanitary conditions remained perfect. As a consequence the wines show remarkable balance and homogeneity, with all indicators well within reason. The Pinot Noirs are intense, rich and powerful, while the Chardonnays, perhaps more affected by the drought in June, had to be cautiously selected to preserve their complex nose and beautiful length.

    All in all the climate of 2015 brought us back to other warm, dry years such as 1976, 1996 or 2003. However each vintage remains truly unique since both the heatwaves and the droughts varied in timing, length and intensity. We once again had to take unprecedented decisions and reinvent ourselves. Our first tastings looked very promising—however the full potential of 2015 will only be revealed as we prepare the final assemblage.

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    Me

    Scion of a long line of Côte des Blanc winegrowers, Geoffroy was born in the heart of Champagne country in 1954, in the town of Vertus, set amid the Chardonnay vineyards. Going against what might have seemed to be a predestined career in the world of wine, he took up medicine and received his doctorate in 1982.

    He then went back to his roots and enrolled in the École Nationale d’OEnologie in Reims. He began his second career in wine in the Napa Valley and became the technical adviser for Domaines Chandon, acting as a link between Champagne and the New World vineyards. He learned his trade on foreign soil before fully exercising it in Champagne.

     

    In 1990, Richard Geoffroy became Dom Pérignon’s Chef de Cave, he has been watching over the destiny of this legendary wine ever since.As the custodian of Dom Pérignon’s history and style, Richard Geoffroy is a vintage creator. All Dom Pérignon are vintage and each vintage is a reinvention, a metamorphosis, involving elements of risk.
    In 2009, he released his Manifesto.

    In 2000 Richard Geoffroy decided to give the Dom Pérignon’s lovers an access to a few rare vintages from the concept of Plénitudes. He carefully chose the wines regarding the stage of maturation, since in the Plénitudes, the wine continues to mature for years and even decades, and is reborn several times, it’s the Dom Pérignon Plénitudes project, the ultimate expression of a wine whose style defies time.

     

    Richard shapes a unique world to Dom Pérignon and reveals each vintage originality. Beyond finding the right words.

    Geoffroy offers unique ways to experience the wine based on new gustatory cultural and sensorial correspondences. From his travels, he captures and filters a myriad of impressions, which he reinterprets in the making of Dom Pérignon. Dom Pérignon’s dazzling original vision must stand up to the merciless test of time, for the challenge of making Dom Pérignon lies in mastering time to create this opus, then leaving it up to time to reveal it.

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Wine Moments

Here you can see wine moments from tastingbook users. or to see wine moments from your world.

Richard Geoffroy / Dom Pérignon, Wine Maker (France)  had a tasting of  9 Wines  from  1 Producers 

Nature was bountiful with us in 2004, and so is Dom Pérignon Rosé Vintage 2004, binding the 2004 vintage with Dom Pérignon’s singularity in a symbiotic manner. On the nose, Pinot Noir sings out loud, with clear, vibrant and fragile notes of fresh and intense red fruit. On the palate, the wine glides, embracing, tempered by a chiseled and penetrating integrity. In the end an impression of utmost precision dominates. The vintage is marked by an unexpected hint of green citrus on the finish which catches us off-guard and reminds us that a great experience always comes with a touch of unpredictability.

3m 26d ago

Richard Geoffroy / Dom Pérignon, Wine Maker (France)  had a wine moment

“I am a lucky man! The first decade of the new millenium has been prodigious for Dom Pérignon. I feel it might attain the golden eras of the 1920’s or 1960’s. This is why I am blessed to introduce Dom Pérignon Vintage 2006 today. The ambition of Dom Pérignon has always been to witness the vintages in Champagne. The reward of our commitment and dedication to the vintage is to be able to celebrate the release of our fifth vintage in a row, for the first time in the history of Dom Pérignon.

Out of these five vintages, four have been harvested at a stage of intense ripeness. Such frequency has never been seen in 300 years of Champagne harvests… yet each of these Vintages is unique. It is almost impossible to characterize full ripeness, as it can stem from a variety of weather conditions. I observed that there are two ways for the associated richness to express itself in the wine: either solemn, such as 2003 or 2005; or generous, such as 2002 or 2006.

Dom Pérignon Vintage 2006 is indeed best typified by its superlative generosity: a pure, airy and bright bouquet on the nose; a distinctive opulence, contained and succulent, on the palate. In essence, a luminous and glorious Champagne.

2y 1m ago

1 Wines 1 Producers

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