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The successive chefs de cave at Dom Pérignon have invariably put aside a substantial quantity of wines from each vintage to let them mature on their lees. Their foresight, legitimated by their unfailing trust in Dom Pérignon’s long ageing potential, allowed me to open the doors of this treasure trove to Dom Pérignon lovers. Starting in 2000, the name of Oenothèque felt natural when the time came to reveal this living memory of Dom Pérignon to the world.
In the fifteen years that have since elapsed, it has become clear that the existence of this wine library was merely a stepping stone on the path to celebrating autolysis, the mysterious and often misunderstood process of maturation on the lees. Setting Champagne apart from other wine regions, this long metamorphosis of the wine is the cornerstone of Dom Pérignon’s vision. Prolonging this focus, and thanks to decades over decades of transmitting this legacy from one chef de cave to the next, the fundamental concept of plénitudeemerged.
Unique to Dom Pérignon, these privileged moments of succession are called plénitudes—moments when the wine sings higher and stronger. Through regular tastings of older vintages, I am able to determine exactly when a Dom Pérignon vintage has reached the nextplénitude and is ready to be presented to the public. I am proud to introduce to you our new cuvée, whose name is of utmost relevance to Dom Pérignon’s singularity: P2 – Plénitude Deuxième.
DOM PÉRIGNON OENOTHÈQUE / As the custodian of Dom Pérignon’s history and style, Geoffroy watches over a few samples of each vintage in his OEnothèque, the Chef de Cave’s wine cellar. In the OEnothèque, the wine continues to mature for years and even decades, and is reborn with each metamorphosis of time, for Dom Pérignon is unanimously recognized for its impressive aging potential. As Geoffroy puts it, “Dom Pérignon OEnothèque is the ultimate expression of a wine whose style defies time.”
Geoffroy’s commitment to the OEnothèque program, which began with the 1990 Vintage, involves ongoing personal research on each vintage. The effect of time on the bottled wine retains its share of mystery and surprise even for him.
Dom Pérignon keeps pushing one step further, sometimes rewriting the rules, to pave the path for renewed experiences. So does Œnothèque, glorifying the exclusive process of actively aging a wine on its lees to offer a magnified style through re-releases. Œnothèque prolongs the character of the original Vintage wine, coming ever closer to the ideal of Dom Pérignon. The patience of wine lovers is now rewarded with a deeper, more intimate discovery and perception of Dom Pérignon. The current Vintage is put in proper perspective by giving a glimpse of the aging potential. It would now be virtually impossible for me to imagine Dom Pérignon without its Œnothèque expression.
Oenothèque 1996 by Richard Geoffroy,
The 1996 harvest:
The year was full of contrasts and the summer changeable, with the wetter periods never quite making up for the earlier hydric deficit. Eventually, in the month before grape-picking (16 September), it was as much the spells of hot weather as the influence of north-easterly winds that led to the original maturity of the vintage.
On the nose:
Praline rapidly combines with citron and dried figs. Darker underlying iodine and peaty notes also emerge.
On the palate:
There is an apparent paradox, with concentration and movement vying for ascendancy. The structure of the wine is tense and assertive. Its energy, almost tactile, is contained for a moment before vibrating and exploding. Its opulence then becomes superbly persistent, trenchant and persuasive.
Up to this point 1996 has been considered a fantastic vintage which produced classic wines; the best since 1990. A long, dry summer produced grapes of record ripeness with record acidity. Some, including myself, question how the 1996s are aging. The wines are generally characterized by a distinctive rather lemony acidity and very good attack, but some wines now seem terribly austere, while others already seem dangerously short of fruit. None of the subsequent vintages are quite as distinctive as 1996, which in the more successful cases should almost certainly be drunk after the 1999s.