Dom Pérignon History
Dom Pérignon is the prestige cuvée of the champagne House Moët & Chandon and is always a vintage champagne, with grapes used to make the wine harvested in the same year.
It is named after Dom Pierre Pérignon, a Benedictine monk who was long held up as the man who discovered the secret of putting bubbles into wine: contrary to popular myths he did not discover the champagne method for making sparkling wines, but is correctly considered as a starting point for champagne’s modern history.
Dom Pérignon had the brilliant idea to assemble the wines between them in such a way that qualities of the ones are added to those of the others and succeeded in perfecting the art of producing clear white wines from black grapes, an essential practice considering about 40% of Champagne’s vineyards are occupied by Pinot Noir.
Thus, by clever manipulation of the presses, he enhanced the tendency of Champagne wines to retain their natural sugar in order to naturally induce secondary fermentation in the spring, understanding that the sap begin to work in the vine and that the yeasts wake and proliferate, thus allowing the wine become effervescent with a second, short-lived fermentation.
Alongside these innovations, he also introduced corks (instead of wood) and, having understood that the pressure was due to the carbon dioxide, he decided to use bottle made of thicker glass.
The work of Pierre Pérignon was very extensive and his champagne was regularly served at Versailles, at the court of Louis XIV.
Tough the development of sparkling wines as the main style of production in Champagne occurred progressively in the 19th century, it is thanks to Dom Perignon if many notable improvements in wine-making are still practiced today.
When he died, at the beginning of the XVIII century, champagne wines were favorite at the King’s court. Louis XVI and especially Madame de Pompadour would have brag for the champagne as we know it today.
The first vintage of Dom Pérignon was 1921 and the name “Dom Perignon” was proposed by Laurence Venn, an English publicist at Simon Brothers, Moët & Chandon’s London agency, who had the idea to create an exceptional quality champagne to be sold on allocation (at a higher price) to the British aristocracy. Nevertheless, though the champagne was known since the days of Madame de Pompadour, it was only released for sale in 1936, after a period of global recession: it was in that year that the House reserved to each of the family descendants of the Moët & Chandon London agency’s top clients a basket containing two sumptuous 19th century styled bottles of the 1926 vintage, sealed with wax and string. Since the enthusiastic reaction of the customers, the House then decided to employ the same tactic in the US market the following year and in fact until 1947 Dom Pérignon was reserved exclusively for the US market.
In 1959 Dom Pérignon was recognised by the world press as the most prestigious champagne in the world and since then many special editions in collaborations with famous artists and designers have contributed to enhance the success of this exceptional wine: in 2008 Karl Lagerfeld released a limited edition Dom Pérignon glass ’’A Bottle named Desire’ modelled on Claudia Schiffer’s breasts, in 2010 the House paid a tribute to Andy Warhol by a limited edition collection of three bottles created in association with the Design Laboratory at Central Saint Martins School of Art & Design and in 2012 was the year of the collaboration with the photographer David Lynch, who released the campaign “The Power of Creation’, emphasising the importance of quality in production. .
Dom Pérignon House
Dom Pérignon has its headquarters in Hautvillers, where Pierre Pérignon served as the cellar master and which was recently renoved by Moët & Chandon, the Champagne house that owns Dom Pérignon, by a multiyear renovation of the Abbey. By using the abbey as its unofficial headquarters, Dom Pérignon reinforces links to its namesake, who may not have invented sparkling wine but is said to have mastered the art of mixing the produce of different vineyards to achieve that champagne ideal — the perfect blend.
Moët & Chandon owns virtually all of the vineyards from which Dom Pérignon is sourced: as many as 300 different vineyards, from outside Reims to the Marne Valley, are emplyoed to make a bottle of Dom Pérignon.
Neverthless the House always focuses on the grapes, by chosing not to declare a vintage when their quality is deemed to be not outstanding.
The exact number of bottles produced per vintage is not precisely defined (at least 2 million) but everyone agrees that its greatly overtakes the production of Cristal and Krug, its two most famous rival prestige cuvées.
As of January 2013, the current release of Dom Pérignon is from the 2003 vintage and the current release of Dom Pérignon Rosé is from the 2002 vintage. Between 1921 and 2003, Dom Pérignon champagne has been produced in 39 years. Three vintage years in a row are a rare phenomenon (which has only occurred twice: in 1969, 1970 and 1971; in 1998, 1999 and 2000).
Dom Pérignon Style
Dom Pérignon is a single-vintage wine, made only in the best years: in fact the House pride itself on being “Vintage Only: an assemblage of the finest grapes of a single year in Champagne”, meaning all grapes used to make the wine are harvested in the same year rather than a blend of multiple years’ harvests. This is generally an indication of quality: many houses use blending to try to make more or less the same wine every year, while Dom Pérignon welcomes variation.
Always assembling 50% Pinot Noir and 50% Chardonnay, but changing the final composition every vintages created. Richard Geoffroy ,The Chef de Cave of the House is Richard Geoffroy, a star in the world of champagne making, considering that he is the only one who can decides if a vintage is up to be sold and who decides which is the perfect blend for a Dom Pérignon.
Having access to all 17 Grands Crus vineyards in Champagne (and in particular the 8 core Grands Crus of Aÿ, Bouzy, Verzenay, Mailly, Chouilly, Cramant, Avize and Le Mesnil) as well as the historical Premier Cru from Hautvillers is a privilege of the House and creates a myriad of options.
The signature style of Dom Pérignon – intense, full-bodied, hedonistic – is all driven by taste so to create a distinctive champagne, that tries to stand out amongst the others instead to strive to not get noticed. Part of this unicity is in the harvesting of ripe grapes: while many Champagne producers pick early, either out of stylistic preference or simply to ensure a harvest, Dom Pérignon’s pickers, under the wise advice of Mr. Geoffroy, wait for greater ripeness. This is due to the emphasis given to pH with acidity rather than flavors and sugars, in the convinction that that any corrections can be done through blending.
Nevertheless, to control the end product and to look for no surprises later during the winemaking process, the House adds sulfite during the pressing to kill off any indigenous wild yeast, runs a malolactic fermentation with a commercial culture each year allowing it to complete fully and only use stainless steel tanks for their primary fermentation. Much attention is also given to the topic of oxidation, that kills champagne’s complexity and makes it fat and heavy: each champagne receveis a mix of both early exposure and later protection so acclimates the juice at early stage and to gently rack and protect with sulfite at later times.
Dom Pérignon ages on its lees in the bottle for a minimum of seven years before riddling and disgorgement. After the yeast is removed, the champagne is stored for another six months before being released for sales around the globe. The result is elegance and creaminess with toasted flavours, backed up by an exotic fruitiness in a medium body and very fine tiny bubbles.
Dom Pérignon expresses its first plénitude after seven years in the cellar, with a second plénitude 12 to 15 years after the vintage and a third plénitude after 30 to 40 years.
The best way to appreciate a Dom Perignon is is to use standard wine glasses instead of not narrow Champagne flutes or shallow coupes so to emphasize the rich flavors and aromas of each new vintage, a sort of unique creative art.