Ask anybody what makes champagne so special and you’re likely to get the following answer: bubbles. Removing the wire, listening to the sound of the cork being gently expelled from the bottle and to the music of the mousse as the wine is being served, witnessing the fragility and ephemeral quality of these tiny jewels in the glass: such is the magic of champagne, the magic of Dom Pérignon.
Bubbles also fascinate scientists. Professor Gérard Liger-Belair, from his laboratory at the University of Reims, attempts to understand how they develop in the glass, studies what influences their size and feel, and determines the specific physical and chemical forces ruling over their short lives.
Gérard Liger-Belair is at the same time a pioneer and an international expert in the field of bubbles and effervescence. I recently met him in Hautvillers to exchange thoughts. I was particularly interested in hearing his views on the factors influencing the finesse of the mousse as well as its effect on the singular tactile dimension of Dom Pérignon.
He explained that the time a champagne spent in the bottle was crucial. Although the first few years seem to make a greater difference, the bubbles appear to keep getting smaller as the wine ages.
I asked if the time the wine spent maturing on its lees in the bottle made a special difference, as I had observed that it can affect the texture of Dom Pérignon Oenothèque. He answered that the prolonged contact with the lees and its influence on Dom Pérignon’s viscosity could help limit the size of the bubbles in the glass and enhance their persistence at the surface. This plays a role in the tactile and elegant character of Dom Pérignon.
I pointed out that Dom Pérignon Rosé always seems to have a more generous effervescence compared to the blanc. Gérard Liger-Belair agreed, although the reasons seem to be shrouded in mystery for the moment: among the factors are the matrix of the wine itself and the level of polyphenols.
He added that as the bubbles reach the surface of the wine in the glass, they literally erupt, projecting a tiny amount of champagne a few millimeters in the air at very high speed. Combined with the fact that the champagne droplets hold more aromas than the heart of the wine itself, this vaporizing effect enhances the olfactory perception of champagne. This gives a hint about the mesmerizing and tantalizing nose of Dom Pérignon Rosé.
lees : deposit formed by yeast from the fermentation in bottle.
While presenting the Dark Revelation experience, I mentioned that vintages 1970 and 2004 share an elegant classicism. In both years the weather was perfect, the growing season unrolling smoothly and effortlessly, leading to a harvest of the highest quality. The easy flow of the seasons produced wines of great consistency: although more than 30 years apart, Dom Pérignon Vintage 2004 and Oenothèque 1970 are both notable for their symbiotic character. Each wine develops into its own multidimensional world of natural sophistication, radiant finesse and high-strung harmony.
Dom Pérignon wines follow the rhythm of three plénitudes: the first after seven years maturing on their lees; the second between eleven and twenty years; and the third beyond twenty. In the darkness of our cellars, from one plénitude to the next, Dom Pérignon will grow and blossom, transmuting time into energy. Dom Pérignon Oenothèque 1970 will have required forty years of patient elaboration to reach the third plénitude, when the spirit of Dom Pérignon fully reveals itself. At this stage, Dom Pérignon’s complexity becomes unsurpassed. The lineage of all the vintages in their third plénitude represents the living memory of Dom Pérignon, transmitting this heritage through generations of Chefs de Cave. Thus, tasting Dom Pérignon Oenothèque 1970 enhances our understanding of the 2004 vintage: it helped us in the decision-making; it now offers a glimpse of the wine’s potential.
Owing to their contemporary classicism, both vintages embody a reflection of their times. They transcend the aspects of climate, personality or aromatic profile to capture the spirit of a whole region. The 1970 vintage opened the door to an era of consolidation of knowledge and savoir faire. New techniques appeared, allowing improvements in quality and regularity. The 2004 vintage is part of an ongoing cycle that started at the turn of the millenium: Champagne now operates in a different context, attempting to rediscover its terroirs and reach a new equilibrium with its environment. Leading the way and drawing on its legacy, Dom Pérignon reiterates its promise… liberating the creative energy in its wines.
I recently expressed my vision of creation at Dom Pérignon in a video. I invite you to watch it.
(You can activate English subtitles in the video by clicking the CC button)
Foremost design pioneers Sir Jonathan Ive, KBE, and Marc Newson, CBE, joined with the musician and philantropist Bono to organize a (RED) Auction celebrating the very best in design and innovation. The event took place on Nov 23 at Sotheby’s New York to raise money for The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
This auction was the perfect opportunity to revisit the collaboration between Marc Newson and Dom Pérignon in 2006, that lead to the creation of the iconic wine cooler. Now revealed in a one-time ever red version, the ice bucket encased a magnum of Dom Pérignon Oenothèque 1966 featuring a custom red foil and label.
Specifically created for the (RED) Auction, such a unique piece allowed Dom Pérignon to reinvent itself, inducing a renewed sense of anticipation and excitement. I feel at the same time pride and fulfillment knowing that Dom Pérignon was able to assist the organizers by raising $93,750 for this noble cause.