Richard Geoffroy, Chef du Cave (Head of Cellar) for Dom Perignon recently passed through Hong Kong on one of his annual, global road shows to launch yet another vintage Champagne. In this instance the Dom Perignon 2000.
The vintage 2000 Dom Perignon follows a long line of worthy predecessors, as the Champagne house only releases the best vintages. These are from the years when all the grapes, the weather, the soil and the elements of taste come together to produce something unmistakeably Dom Perignon.
Richard was also personally escorting three magnums of Dom Perignon Oenoteque, the house’s imaginative programme of re-releases from previous years of exceptional quality. The wines are to be auctioned at the second wine sale.
Richard has not spent his entire career nursing wine into grapes. Before becoming a winemaker at the highest level he qualified as a medical practitioner. Jancis Robinson MW has described him as a “pretty unique” character and that pretty much sums up Richard. He is unique in his technical superiority as a winemaker and in his views and in the way that he communicates all things connected to flavour and texture.
With no shortage of technical understanding under his belt, Richard finds it easy to translate numbers into tastes and those are tastes that represent emotions. One of his favourite descriptions of Dom Perignon of any vintage is to liken the Champagne to walking a tightrope. There are two equal sides of forces that alternate in their effect on the palate. As he puts it, “If there was only one side it would not be balanced”.
I have had more than my fair share of tastings with this superb cellarman over the last 15 years, each time for the release of a Dom Perignon or the re-release of an old Dom Perignon. While Richard’s communication is far from the geek speak of a wine nerd, he always manages to capture the essence of the wine with his precise use of words. He likes to contrast volume and richness in amount of flavour, richness and power to describe their presentation in his somewhat idiosyncratic use of words.
Hong Kong was one of the first international cities to have the opportunity to enjoy the 2000 vintage and even Champagne aficionados in the United States have had to wait another month to try the wine. I ask Richard how he thinks the 2000 vintage stands up against the 1996 and 1999 vintages, both of which proved popular in the United States, scoring 90+ points. Richard is quick to point out that the 2000 is a wine that goes back and revisits some of the best traditions of the Dom Perignon style. Elegance, structure and length are its hallmarks.
I asked Richard of the high scoring but untraditional ’96 and ’99 Champagnes had been experiments to make wines more compatible with American tastes, as opposed to the more traditional Dom Perignon style. Actually I asked him four times and on the last time he answered me with a cheeky grin but also with a stare that penetrated to the very depth of my being before saying ‘they reflect the weather of the vintages’.
On less probing territory, I also asked if there would be a 2000 Vintage Dom Perignon Rosè, given that the house only releases spectacular and rare wines under these circumstances. All Richard could say was “Oh yeah! Oh yeah! Definitely look out for it”
We may already be over three-quarters of the way through another decade but as Dom Perignon only releases wines after eight years, it is not yet possible to judge if some of the more recent vintages will make the grade. However, Richard noted that 2001 would not be a vintage and that 2002 was looking very likely. He asked me what I thought of the 2003 and I replied that the year was probably too hot and Richard nodded.
So what about the three magnums of Dom Perignon Oenoteque that the wine maker is escorting around the world? Richard leapt straight into to discuss the 1973 instead of talking about the 1976, 1973 and 1966 in the anticipated chronological order. And with good reason.
The 1973 vintage was extremely valuable, the essence of Dom Perignon, the monk who discovered Champagne. The Champagne from that year is highly traditional in the Dom Perignon style, it’s fresh and immense and full of life in the bottle.
The 1966 is a wine that is evolving in a curious manner, developing a floral character that is usually associated with young wines. The wine never had this characteristic when it was young but has it now. It is another classic Dom Perignon filled with streaky acidity and lively characters. Perhaps the ultimate accolade to this wine is that if Richard could have his pick of any decade to work at the Champagne House through its long history, he would have chosen the 1960s. He also hopes that at one point in his career he will have the opportunity to work with another vintage of the same quality.
The last vintage we discussed is the controversially hot weather year of 1976, particularly noted for its ultra-ripe Pinot Noir, used in moderation. This started life with the same richness as the 1996 or 1999 but has evolved gracefully over its 32-year lifespan.
I asked Richard if he had any message for the Dom Perignon fans of China and he answered with one of his famous and trenchant Richardisms. “’Fans!’ You mean lovers, lovers of Dom Perignon. A ‘fan’ is too weak a word.
“Thank you for your support. There is plenty to look forward to from Dom Perignon in the future.”
By Simon Tam Source: Winekee