The 2014 harvest

2014 felt completely upside down climate wise, much like the last couple of years. However when 2013 could be summarized as a rainy winter and spring followed by two beautiful months of summer, 2014 is precisely the reverse. The winter was particularly mild, to the point where many in Champagne thought it never actually happened. The temperatures remained above average until the end of April and there were no incidents due to hail or frost: this lead to an early and perfect flowering with great fruit potential. Every factor pointed to an early and bountiful harvest. However the rain and relatively cold weather of July and August signalled a regression to the mean in terms of precocity, while increasing the pressure of botrytis. Thankfully September was sunny and dry, helping us to keep the threat of rot at bay while trying to reach the perfect ripeness level.

The harvest started gradually between the 12th and 17th of September and was relatively short. The aromatic profile of the grapes evolved rapidly, reaching our desired stage of ripeness and intensity in only ten days. The acidities were high and will help retain balance and freshness. The berries grew rapidly both in size and weight, increasing their fragility and making them more susceptible to rot. The vintage was also marked by the presence of acidic rot, not only in our region but in the whole of Europe. Thankfully the harvest is still performed manually in Champagne, and our experienced teams of pickers were in a position to sort the grapes very carefully in the vineyard. We also operated a strict geographical selection: most of the chardonnays were beautiful; some sectors of pinot noir (mostly around Ay) were hit very hard by rot, while others (Verzenay) matured extremely early (actually the earliest I’ve ever seen) and produced grapes of very high quality.

The 2014 harvest had a great potential which was balanced by relatively high yields and the presence of rot. Our access to a wide range of terroirs in Champagne meant we had the luxury of being extremely selective. Sound viticultural practices and uncompromising sorting of the grapes in the vineyard allow us to be particularly hopeful. As usual the final decision whether to declare this vintage will only be reached after we prepare the final assemblage…

 

Introducing P2

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 plénitude emerged.

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 next plénitude 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.

Join me for the harvest in Hautvillers

The harvest is a crucial moment in the elaboration of Dom Pérignon, symbolizing a transfer of energy from the vineyards to our cellars. It is possibly my favorite time of the year, when all our efforts unravel. Few Dom Pérignon lovers ever have a chance to witness it, let alone participate. This is why I am offering you to experience an unforgettable day with me during the 2014 harvest. Among the activities: a guided tasting of Dom Pérignon P2 1998; a private lunch highlighting food and wine pairings with various vintages of Dom Pérignon; and a tour of the cellars—not to mention harvesting a few grapes in the vineyards of the Abbaye d’Hautvillers, the birthplace of Champagne!

Only 40 of you will get the chance to join me, either on the 10th or the 11th of September. All the details can be found here, although I have to warn you that a delivery address in France is required, and that we will be starting from Paris.

vendangesdomperignon.com

I am looking forward to meeting you during the harvest!

La vendange est un moment crucial dans l’élaboration de Dom Pérignon, symbolisant le transfert de l’énergie accumulée dans le vignoble vers la cave. Cette période, durant laquelle tous nos efforts portent leurs fruits, est probablement ma préférée de l’année. Peu d’amateurs de Dom Pérignon ont la chance d’en être les témoins, et encore moins d’y participer. C’est pourquoi je vous propose aujourd’hui de vivre une journée inoubliable en ma compagnie pendant la vendange 2014. Parmi les activités proposées : une dégustation commentée de Dom Pérignon P2 1998; un déjeuner privé sur le thème des accords mets et vins avec différents millésimes de Dom Pérignon; et une visite de nos caves—sans compter l’opportunité de récolter vous-mêmes quelques raisins dans les vignes de l’Abbaye d’Hautvillers, berceau de la Champagne !

La participation est limitée à seulement 40 personnes, soit le 10 soit le 11 septembre. Vous trouverez tous les détails ici.

vendangesdomperignon.com

Je vous attends à Hautvillers pour les vendanges !

Temperature of service

As a bottle of Dom Pérignon leaves our cellars, it starts a new life in the hands of Dom Pérignon lovers who are eager to prolong our own quest for perfection. I am, for example, often asked how a bottle of Dom Pérignon should be stored. Ideally the conditions should be as close as possible to our cellars: dark, humid and at a stable temperature (around 12 degrees celsius).

 

 

Assuming proper conservation, the service of the wine is paramount to its appreciation. I have already mentioned the style of wine glass [lien billet glasses] I generally consider best for Dom Pérignon wines, regardless of vintage. The temperature of service comes into play as well, influencing the sensory experience in ways that are rarely acknowledged to their full extent.

During our recent meeting, Gérard Liger-Belair mentioned that temperature affects multiple elements in champagne that can impact the perception during the tasting: for example as the temperature of service increases, the viscosity of the wine lowers, leading to bigger and more numerous bubbles.

To explore the effect of temperature in a more empirical way, I created a few years ago a special dinner with Philippe Mille, chef of two-starred Michelin restaurant Les Crayères in Reims, and his sommelier Philippe Jamesse. In order to show the differences between various temperatures of service, we imagined a scenario in which a bottle of Dom Pérignon Œnothèque 1996 would be poured at all the temperatures between 8 and 16 degrees celsius, accompanied by specific dishes designed to complement its evolving personality.

 

Starting at 8 degrees the wine appeared more mineral, with its signature iodine character. Reaching 12 degrees and opening up with time, the bouquet became more complex, with earthy, smoky notes of sous-bois and truffles. Above 13 degrees, a phenolic quality started to appear, allowing us to push the envelope by pairing Dom Pérignon Oenothèque 1996 with a tajine of lamb! Finally at 16 degrees an intense profile of hazelnuts and praline was a perfect match for a tarte tatin.

This experience, that I was glad to share with our guests, deepened our knowledge and understanding of Dom Pérignon. Once again our desire to challenge preconceived notions was met with success!