It’s always a pleasure to sit down and talk wine with Dom Pérignon’s chef de cave Richard Geoffroy. But when he brings the new vintages, including 2002 and 1996, it’s a must.
On a warm day in late June, we met at Nobu in Tribeca to revisit the new vintages I first tasted with Geoffroy this past February.
It was immediately apparent that the Dom Pérignon Brut 2002 ($150) had opened substantially since my initial look at it, showing richness, but also depth and power. The Pinot Noir component dominates the blend, as evidenced by the dark berry tones and an undercurrent of mineral, which is backed by a firm structure (95 points, non blind).
“[The] ’02 [vintage] was not as easy as you think,” explained Geoffroy, obviously pleased with his new baby. “There were issues of ripeness, like overripeness.”
In addition to the Brut Cuvée Dom Pérignon Oenothèque 1996 ($350), there was a bottle of Brut Cuvée Dom Pérignon 1996, from the original disgorgement in 2002 (2003 release) for comparison. Unfortunately, the Brut 1996 was slightly corked. However, it revealed more mature, oxidative aromas and flavors of toast, mushroom and coffee, with a linear finish that may have been compromised due to the cork taint.
On the other hand, the 1996 Oenothèque (disgorged 2008; to be released in September 2010) was fresher, more youthful and reductive, offering citrus and mineral notes matched to a creamy texture that lead to an expansive finish (96, non blind).
As good as these new cuvées were, it was the Brut Rosé 2000 ($350, available now) that was a revelation. Salmon-colored, it featured berry, citrus and mineral aromas and flavors, with an initial roundness offset by a chalky feel as it glided to a long, smoky finish (92, non blind).
Geoffroy, who noted that 2000 was "not a great vintage,” said his purpose is to provide one interpretation of the vintage. “We really went for it in ’00," he added. "We changed a lot of parameters.”
Those parameters, coming ten years after Geoffroy assumed responsibility for D.P., consisted of focusing on the terroir and better ripeness for the still red wines.
In the vineyards, the team dropped fruit and looked for ideal phenolic ripeness as opposed to sugar ripeness only. In the cellar, they revisited the method of pigeage, or punching down, by using new equipment for a more gentle extraction and racking off the skins earlier to avoid harsh tannins.
These parameters allowed Geoffroy to approach the blending differently, adding a higher percentage of still red wine than in past rosé cuvees. Now, the rosé has no less than 20 percent still red wine, mostly from vineyards in Aÿ, but also Bouzy.
The food at Nobu was impressive and several dishes paired beautifully with the Champagnes. I particularly enjoyed the Washu beef, a hybrid of Wagyu and Angus, rare and thinly sliced with the Rosé 2000, the sea urchin with the opulence of the Brut 2002 and the miso black cod with the 1996 Oenothèque.
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