Few winemakers have training as a medical professional: Dom Pérignon chef de cave Richard Geoffroy uses his to analyze his Champagnes like a psychiatrist putting a patient on a couch. If he had to sum up the character of Moët & Chandon’s prestige cuvée in two words, they would likely be “singular” and “intense”—concepts that cropped up throughout his presentation of four vintages of Dom Pérignon back to 1975.
Despite the 9:15 a.m. start time, more than 1,000 guests were on hand, eager to try rare wines that have spent decades aging in Dom Pérignon’s cellars. Looking around the room, Geoffroy commented, “This has to be the mother of all Dom Pérignon tastings. This should get us going for the rest of the day!”
Co-hosting with Wine Spectator senior editor Bruce Sanderson, Geoffroy presented the recently released 2002 Dom Pérignon Brut Champagne, along with three older vintages disgorged after aging on their lees for a decade, or two or three, as part of the Oenothèque program: 1996, 1990 and 1975.
“[Dom Pérignon is] iconic,” Geoffroy said, “representing the history and tradition of Champagne … every vintage of Dom Pérignon is unique.” The blend is always around half Chardonnay and half Pinot Noir (never more than 60 percent of either), all meticulously selected from more than 3,000 acres of grands crus vineyards. Each vintage is aged on the lees for about seven years and at least six additional months in bottle after disgorgement.
The first wine poured was the 2002 (95 points, $160), an excellent vintage for the region. “The 2002 struck me as opulent, with a lot of ripe fruit,” Sanderson said.
The 1996 Oenothèque came from what Geoffroy called a “vintage of concentration” and showed distinct toast, iodine and oyster shell notes. Geoffroy said the 1996 “makes a statement on the grandeur of these wines and the ageability, to magnify the singularity of Dom Pérignon.”
Returning to “singularity” as the 1990 Oenothèque (96 points, $290 on release, current auction price $1,315) was tasted, Geoffroy defined the word in regard to Champagne as an “overall sensation—intensity, vibrancy of flavor, presence without being powerful … seamless, smooth.” He emphasized, “Dom Pérignon is not about power, but it is about intensity: Intensity is about precision and harmony, and harmony is more intense than power.”
The final wine was the 1975 Oenothèque, which Sanderson said is about “textural balance and harmony—with the 1975, you see all those elements come together.” Geoffroy elaborated on how special the 1975 is. “I realize 2002 to 1990 are on the rich side of things, but there is something singular to —it is weightless, streamlined. Intensity, integration, complexity. There is nothing more intense than 1975.”