Dom Oenothèque – the best from ‘the library’
|Superb packaing on this special Dom.
Have your platinum Amex at the ready sir
(I wrote this article a little over a year ago now for Lattè Life Magazine. A different tone perhaps but the core sentiment is accurate. I don’t share the same enthusiasm for the 2003 Dom sadly).
If you were forced to choose a desert island wine, what would it be? What tipple would be your choice to be stuck with forever more?
For me there is really only one thing that is up to the task… Champagne. More specifically, I’m talking about the finest French Champagne, and if we’re talking the absolute best then you’d be hard pressed to go past Dom Pérignon Oenothèque.
Now many of of you have probably heard of Dom Pérignon, the prestige Champagne of exalted house Moët & Chandon. But Dom Pérignon Oenothèque takes this prestige to the next level.
Quite simply, Oenothèque means ‘wine library’ and refers to the specialised reserve cellaring program and ‘living memory’ of Dom Pérignon that underpins the entire operation (according to Oenologist Vincent Caperon, who was out here recently to show the wine).
What the program entails is essentially a cellar full of many vintages of maturing Dom Pérignon Champagne, all patiently awaiting the decision of Chef de Cave (chief winemaker) Richard Geoffroy of when to release them.
You see what happens is that the ‘standard’ Dom Pérignon is aged for approximately seven years on yeast lees before being disgorged and released. This ‘standard’ release makes up the bulk of the quietly large (rumoured to be 2 million bottles) production.
Yet every year a small amount of this same wine is kept back on lees for further ageing and then not released until either it’s ‘second maturity peak’ (15-20 years after harvest) or its third peak (30 years plus).
The net result is two tiers of Dom Pérignon. The ‘standard’ release is a consistently good prestige Champagne built in a quite elegant style. Yet the Oenothèque wines, carrying such extended ageing on yeast lees, are infinitely more interesting and complex, turning the sometimes feminine Dom Pérignon into a robust Champagne for the ages.
A perfect example of this lies in the current releases. The quite classically proportioned 2002 Dom Pérignon ($260) is a rather fragrant and citrussy wine that still looks somewhat shy and reserved. Compare that to the 1996 Dom Pérignon Oenothèque ($550) which is one of the most full bodied Champagnes I’ve ever had, (from a vintage that Vincent called ‘an anomaly’) that was so powerful and richly flavoured that at lunch it quite ably matched up to a veal rack.
It is this wine, this style of wine then that would have me calling for the Oenothèque on the desert island. It’s the sort of Champagne that you simply cannot grow tired of, each mouthful unveiling an extra nuance, an extra layer of flavour and that everlasting length.
The only challenge really is the pricetag. Arguably for a wine of this quality and reputation it’s cheap, but I can only hope that whoever is stocking the fridge on my desert island has very deep pockets…
|What is the collective noun for much expensive French Champagne? A flood?|
Dom Pérignon 2002
Vincent Geoffroy believes this is coming together much like the 1980, a vintage which is also quite classic. I think it really needs more time in the bottle to show its best but certainly well formed. A very good Dom vintage no doubt, if not quite great as yet (and let’s not talk about the bottle variation and cork taint ok?).
It’s actually quite fragrant and elegant on the nose, lifted with a lemon tang that suggests stainless steel tanks and not barrels. Krug it is not (nor should it be). The palate too is tight and linear, driven by great length but hardly a powerful or dense Champagne by any means. It is long, it is fresh and it is pure. A wine for the future no doubt. 18.3/93+
Dom Pérignon Oenothèque 1996
I’m going to quote directly from Geoffroy again here, simply because this is interesting stuff (or at least I thought so):
‘The most important character is the notion of the vintage… There is a lot of risk in trying to maintain the consistency. Much more exciting as us winemakers love to reinvent every year… 1996 was a vintage of wind, with wind concentrating whilst also causing lots of stress.’
The 1996 was originally released in 2004, but this particular Oenothèque was kept on lees until 2009.
It’s still quite bright in the glass actually, the nose lightly creamy with a sort of Golden Gaytime richness in there, the wine obviously more leesy and richer but with age driving it as much as lees. Underneath it is very full, dry and firm with a big wall of acidity smashing into the leesy richness. It’s a hardcore Champagne actually with a forceful personality that propels it from light and elegance ala the 02 into big boy territory. Top Champagne! 18.8/95
Dom Pérignon Rosé 1998
The biggest problem when crafting rosé Champagne is that the tannins of the Pinot Noir don’t get ripe. The quest then, according to Geoffroy, is to balance out the ‘authority’ and ‘austerity’ of the palate and particularly the ‘winey’ character of the Pinot Noir.
I’m not convinced that such a balance is perfectly achieved with this wine, but then again it so rarely is in ‘pink’ Champagne…
Salmon orange in colour this is actually richer and more leesy than the standard ‘blanc’. That palate though is dry, lean and hard, the ‘fruiter’ notes that Geoffroy looks for not carried through enough to cancel that high acid and metallic tannin. Too winey for big love perhaps, even though its certainly a well made, high quality sparkling. Plenty of interest on the nose too. I want more generosity though really. 17.5/91