From 2003 to 2011, from one challenge to the next: this is exactly how I felt as I came back to Hautvillers to create the assemblage for 2011. The 2003 Dom Pérignon declaration has brought back memories of one of the most challenging vintages ever, which turned out to be extremely inspiring and motivating. And I am proud to say that as far as 2003 Dom Pérignon is concerned, the reward is commensurate with the risk! Although 2011 has little in common with 2003, they provoke the same sensation in me: years of extremes, with an unusual climate and a strong character.
2011 was definitely atypical, with a rare phenomenon of inverted seasons: incredibly warm and dry weather before flowering, which hinted at an early harvest; followed by cooler temperatures and beneficial soft rains over the summer. The grape maturation cycle, which generally lasts until September, was confined fully to the month of August and its typical alternance of heat and thunderstorms. In the end we decided to harvest a bit later than planned (but still earlier than usual) and in several phases to reach perfect maturity and sanitary conditions across the vineyards. Tough decisions had to be made as the harvest progressed, calling on our teams’ flexibility and adaptability, such as the need to postpone the harvest by a full week for most of the Chardonnay Grand Cru vineyards of the Côte de Blancs. Our efforts to create new markers and indicators of maturity found their full significance during this unconventional harvest. It is worth noting that no harvest took place in August between 1822 and 2003, but this circumstance presented itself three times (2003, 2007 and 2011) in the last ten years: all the experience accumulated with these specific conditions during recent vintages will certainly end up being very useful in the near future.
Picking the best possible grapes is obviously only one step in a lengthy journey to create the best champagne I can. I am focusing right now on blending the various components of 2011, trying to reach the perfect balance. Only when the final assemblage has been achieved can we move on to the decision of declaring the vintage or not. The aim is the same as ever: letting the personality of the vintage shine while staying true to the legacy and style of Dom Pérignon.