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Dom Perignon 1973
Years ago, I was on a long filming trip in the Austrian Alps. Exhausted by the long weeks, we decided together with my then girlfriend to enjoy ourselves by driving to Prague to spend a romantic New Year’s Eve for just the two of us. However, like so many other times in the past, fate intervened, and the New Year that we had planned to spend romantically just with each other turned out to be the complete opposite. A notable role in all of this was played by Dom Pérignon 1973.
After we had driven through mountainous Austria, we arrived on New Year’s Eve at a small border crossing station between Austria and Czechoslovakia. Even if I knew from experience that the border guards would be very frustrated to be working on New Year’s Eve, the conduct of the annoyed customs officials equipped with machine guns toward us young Westerners was surprisingly poor. Apparently, my sports car and my beautiful companion only added to their irritability, and indeed they took over four hours to search our car and belongings. As dusk began to fall, we were able to, however, continue our drive towards Prague, cold and hungry.
During the journey, our attention was fixed on the darkness and quiet that was all around us. The houses alongside the roads were dark, the streets empty, and there was not even a gleam of light in the small mountain villages.
As we approached Prague, our worry that had increased little by little only grew even worse when the gas stations and even larger villages seemed empty and abandoned.
Behind all the darkness, however, light began to shimmer in the sky: soon the city lights of Prague could be seen far away shimmering against the sky, and they eased our insecure state.
After we arrived in the city, we quickly noticed where all of the people from along the way were — masses of people wandered about in the city ready to greet a new, better year.
Following an old technique that we had found to be good, we parked our car in front of the best hotel in the city and expected to easily book a room with money, but we were wrong. No rooms were available, and the hotel attendant kindly, but ominously, suspected the situation to be the same in the other hotels as well.
Still, we decided to try. After an exhausting two-hour round, we returned to that hotel lobby from which we had started; we had not found any type of place for the night.
Continuing the trip was not possible and did not excite us. We could get gas for the car only with coupons, and finding a gas station that was open or a person selling coupons under the table seemed to be even more difficult than finding an open hotel room.
The only option seemed to be to spend New Year’s Eve in our car, fit for two.
Perhaps exactly because of that less romantic image with cold tremors, we still tried to explain our uncomfortable situation to the hotel attendants, appealing for anything. Perhaps our persistent appearance or festive mood made the attendant relent in the end: he gave us the unoccupied resting room of the hotel’s housekeepers for our use for one night.
We were sincerely grateful and happy for our room, which certainly resembled a cleaning closet more than a room, but the place was very warm and had a bed and that was enough, especially since the clock neared midnight.
We could hear that there was a big New Year’s celebration going on in the restaurant on the top floor. The hotel attendants thought that it was where we should hurry to quickly if we wanted to raise our champagne glasses in honour of the new year. And a glass of champagne was exactly what we just now needed desperately.
The other hotel guests had apparently also heard the celebration, because a line had formed in front of the elevators. Two elevators went by. Finally, we were able to get on the third one.
Just as the elevator doors were closing, we noticed to our horror that it started to sink downward towards the cellar. All twelve guests who had dressed in their best forgot their good manners and tried to get out of the sinking elevator without caring about anyone else. Only two of the most unscrupulous men who were the closest to the door were able to climb out of the elevator before the opening between its roof and the floor of the hotel lobby was too small for a human to get through.
Luckily for us, the elevator stopped at a depth of about two metres. A gap of some twenty centimetres remained between the elevator roof and the floor of the hotel lobby. Through it, the hotel staff came to tell us comfortingly that we had descended to the bottom of the shaft, and that there was no fear of a larger fall. On the other hand, there was no hope of lifting the elevator before the morning.
There we were, all ten somewhat scared in a six-person elevator at the bottom of the shaft, and the time was just a few minutes before midnight. We quickly realised that this was going to be a memorable New Year’s Eve, and we figured that a few bottles of bubbly would ease the situation. I desperately yelled to the hotel attendants for them as a consolation to bring us the best champagne in the house. And we did not have to wait for long before an apologetic-looking attendant lowered a few bottles along with glasses toward hands stretched out in the elevator. I was expecting to receive some Russian sparkling wine, but can you imagine my face when a bottle of Dom Perignon Magnum champagne from the classic year of 1973 was handed down to me.
My fear of a confined space and my worry about having to sleep standing up on New Year’s Eve vanished all at once. The monk who had brought the champagne to the whole world’s consciousness, whose one of the better champagne vintages available was waiting in my hands to be released, saved and freed our distressed minds for a moment or two.
I opened the bottle carefully and poured the sparkling elixir into the glasses that had already gathered around me. It made us all forget our strange unwanted environment and connected us ten strangers towards each other for a small moment in a way that would forever remain in our memory.
I cannot remember anything any more about the taste of the champagne itself, but I do remember the disappointment that occupied my mind after those two bottles when some German sparkling water was lowered to the elevator. The atmosphere disappeared, and the reality that we were in a cramped elevator with eight others without any chance to get out for many more hours shook my mind and body to the core.
When we got out of the elevator at 6:30 in the morning, my topmost memory was that of a unique New Year’s Eve with my wife-to-be in the distinguished company of the monk Dom Perignon.
Together with Krug, Dom Pérignon is seen as the best champagne of 1973. Even though the 1973 vintage was almost catastrophic in large parts of the French wine regions, the Champagne province succeeded in producing a fairly good vintage. The main reason for this was an exceptionally hot summer and a warm autumn. The hard rains at the end of September weakened the quality of the harvest, however, and few other champagne houses released a champagne vintage that year. According to Dom Pérignon’s chief winemaker, Richard Geoffroy, the year was identical in terms of weather conditions to the excellent vintage of 1988. The vintage of 1973 produced rich, multidimensional and long-living champagnes, of which perhaps the best example is specifically Dom Pérignon. I myself think the Dom Pérignon vintage of 1973 is the last great Dom Pérignon. Even though it is not as concentrated or multidimensional as many other 1960s Dom Pérignons, it is still in a different class from most other vintages born thereafter. The main reason for this is the multiplying of its output since the mid-1970s. The availability of the 1973 vintage on the market is still good, especially now that Möet & Chandon released an Oenotèque version of it just a few years ago. Prices start at around €700 ending with the €2000 price of Oenotèque.
1973 Dom Pérignon Moët & Chandon (Champagne) 96p 2006/2030 x16
D 10 min/G 40 min
Bright, golden colour with attractive, playful small bubbles. The pronounced nose is broad and very toasty with chocolate and smoky mineral tones. Quite dry, medium level of acidity and very rich mousse. Fresh and elegant toastiness with good fruitiness and hints of yeasty aromas. The finish is delicate and medium-length. Overall, the wine is very humble in style and reflects the innocence of its pure character.
At the end of the 17th Century, Dom Pierre Pérignon stated his ambition to create ‘the best wine in the world’. On 29 September 1694, Dom Pierre Pérignon wrote that his mission was to create “the best wine in the world.” He dedicated himself to improving viticulture techniques, perfecting the art blending grapes from different crus, and introduced the gentle and fractional pressing to obtain white wine from black grapes.Ever since, the House of Dom Pérignon has perpetuated this visionary approach instilled by its founder, one that remains a hallmark of true luxury: the constant reinvention of the exceptional.
Under the creative leadership of cellar master Richard Geoffroy, Dom Pérignon is reinvented with every vintage. The miraculous concept of assemblage – the delicate balance between Pinot Noir and Chardonnay – and the commitment to Vintage are instrumental in the act of creation, revealing the wine's extra soul. Precise and tactile to the point of seamlessness, tense through rhythm and vibrancy, vigorous and fresh yet mature, intense and complex – such is the sensual style of Dom Pérignon: so inviting, yet so mysterious...
The core of the blend are the eight historical Grands Crus, Aÿ, Bouzy, Verzenay, Mailly, Chouilly, Cramant, Avize and Le Mesnil, plus the legendary Hautvillers Premier Cru. Dom Perignon also has the unique privilege of being able to select grapes from all 17 Grands Crus in Champagne. giving birth to Dom Perignon's highly intriguing contrast".
Recommended glass shape
Average Bottle Price
|980€ +5.2%||932€ +7.6%||866€ +16.2%||745€|