It feels like walking down the Hollywood red carpet when we drive through the famous Champagne Avenue where is filled with the world's most prestigious champagne houses such as Pol Roger and Maison Perrier-Jouët. Today, we are honored to be given a private tour at the headquarter of Moet et Chandon. It tops the list of our must-visit sites in the Champagne region.
Before the tour at Moet's hidden underground cellar, there's a fact that all visitors ought to know and it's no secret to the locals: that Monk Dom Perignon is almost being worshiped and remembered as the Father of champagne here (I mean France in general) because of his hard work in making quality champagne. He was known as "wine scientist" who tasted grapes and champagne every morning before breakfast and throughout the day when he was alive. Sounds like a fun job and he was very gifted in tasting. But I prefer to call him an "alcoholic," simply because I don't know what exactly "wine scientist" means.
He was lived till 77 years old, which was considered quite a long life span for someone who lived back in the early 18th century). The locals believe that he had drunk a lot of champagne to have such a long life.
Despite my attempt to demystify Dom Perignon champagne as to how it is made, the staff refused to disclose its production methods and showed me only the underground cellar where they keep the champagne. I've learned that every vintage of Dom Perignon champagne is composed of 7 Grands Crus and 1 Premier Crus. However, you'd be very surprised to find out that no one works at Moet knows the annual production of Dom. Apparently it's a commercial secret. According to Moet, its Champagne is all about feelings, expression and structure, and completely irrelevant to price and production volume.
By the end of the tour I was lucky to be offered a complimentary glass of Dom Pérignon P2-1998 and the latest vintage 2006. It was surreal sitting in the garden and tasting this luxury Champagne with Dom's in-house sommelier.
The biggest question about the 1998 Dom Perignon Second Plentitude is, how does it taste? In a word, exquisite. It would have been nice to try the P2 alongside the original 1998, but alas, all we had for comparison was the current 2004 vintage, which is an excellent champagne and I heartily enjoyed it - until I tried the P2, after which it was hard to go back. It has the classic Dom Perignon mouth feel, very creamy and rich up front, but with more lasting intensity, like a wave of taste from start to finish. Despite all the extra aging it has not gotten fatty or woody as many older wines do, and is still delicate and not dense at all, but perhaps the best way to describe it is “magnified,” very similar in character and structure to the “regular” version but more so in almost every respect. Geoffrey described it as akin to the change from regular television “to HDTV, the lines are so much clearer, sharper and more penetrating.” As a rule of thumb, all Dom Perignon is very good champagne, but the P2 is a truly special champagne, and it makes one quite optimistic about the P3. (Source: Forbes)
P IS FOR PLÉNITUDES
According to Chef de Cave Richard Geoffroy, vintage Champagne does not develop on the lees in a linear style. They go through two or maybe three distinctive peaks in their lifecycle, called plénitudes (translating as fullness). For Geoffroy these peak moments mark an optimum point for drinking and cellaring, when the energy of the wine is at its height. Only at these points are the wines deemed worthy of disgorgement and release. This allows Dom Perignon to show two or three different expressions of one single vintage. The first peak occurs around eight years after harvest and creates the vintage release. The second plénitude is released under the name P2 (previously called Oenothèque), which is reached after around fifteen years. P2 wines represent the midpoint of the lifecycle and are matured solely under cork making them quite different to the vintage release. In certain great years a third window, P3, comes around 30 years after harvest, this represents an energy peak with maximum autolytic character. These distinct expressions are a must for Dom Perignon aficionados, fans of richer-style Champagnes and collectors.
The 1998 vintage was one of extremes; hot sun in August and rainfall in September. But Dom Perignon postponed the harvest by two weeks. The excellent conditions of that extra two weeks after the rain, perfected the fruit and defined it as a vintage. And one that’s quality surprised even Robert Parker, who described it as a “stronger vintage than expected.”
1998 DOM PERIGNON P2
The 1998 Dom Perignon P2 – an almost even blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir – has received lavish plaudits:
- 98 Points – Wine Spectator
- 96 points – Richard Juhlin
- 97 points – James Suckling
- 95 points – Antonio Galloni
- 18 points – Jancis Robinson
Dom Pérignon P2-1998
This is extremely layered and powerful with a larger bead that gives the DP a velvety layer and power. Full body, gorgeous fruit with a flashy length and intensity. Gorgeous and flamboyant. Sexy. Drink now or hold. Decant before if you want to have the chalk undertones, a reflection of the great soils of Champagne. (James Suckling)