Dom Pérignon is, and has always been, exclusively a vintage wine. I could be content with simply letting the vintage express its characteristics through the wine; however, in a constant effort to push the envelope, it is crucial to go one step further: we embrace the vintage and confront it to the singularity of Dom Pérignon in an act of creation.
The growing season shapes a vintage, but rarely as much as in 2003. The spring began with a deceptively mild weather which was not to last: freezing temperatures and hailstorms in early April culminated in a devastating frost on April 11, which nipped most of the Chardonnay vines in the Côte des Blancs, and destroyed up to three-fourth of its potential harvest.
What would already have made for an eventful year was only the beginning, though: over the summer, the most intense heatwave in 53 years lead to the earliest harvest since 1822. Fortunately enough, the grapes were perfectly ripe and in exceptional sanitary condition. Overall, the contrasting weather conditions contributed to an extraordinary richness and concentration.
The features of a vintage gifted with such a personality as 2003 will inevitably make their way into the wine, as they should. Actually, such an extreme vintage can sometimes even be considered too forceful. This is exactly where my challenge lies: finding the perfect balance between the expression of the vintage and the singularity of Dom Pérignon, turning a contrast into a resonance. In this specific case, the richness and intensity of the vintage responds to the usual vibrancy and tactile presence of Dom Pérignon. In my tasting notes, desciptors such as spices, candied fruits or licorice, although not altogether foreign to Dom Pérignon, convey the uniqueness of the vintage; whereas Dom Pérignon asserts itself through briny, smoky notes on the nose, and its signature minerality on the palate.
Finally, as the year 2003 was unfolding, the challenge awaiting me became clearer and I sought the inspiration of older vintages in our Oenothèque: 1947, 1959 or 1976. All these great wines from solar vintages had easily managed to weather the decades, as they all seemed so fresh and alluring. The acidity level was a riddle in itself, but the key was to focus on freshness, which could be reached through minerality as well as vibrancy of the fruitiness. I’m convinced that the intensity coupled with such a precise, chiselled phenolic structure will confer to Dom Pérignon Vintage 2003 the stability through time I desired.
My greatest hope is that, in the history of Champagne, Dom Pérignon can endure as the greatest tribute to the 2003 vintage.