Dom Pérignon cellar master Richard Geoffroy has confirmed plans to increase stock of the house’s recently rebranded late-release series, which he hailed as “breaking new ground in the overall expression of what an older vintage Champagne can be.”
Dom Pérignon cellar master toasts the impending 1998 P2 release over lunch at Fera in Claridges, London
Earlier this year, the house announced that it would be changing the name of its late-release, recently-disgorged Oenothèque series into a “P2” and “P3” offering, referring to the second and third “plenitudes” of development in the evolution of a Champagne.
Speaking at an event ahead of the the 1998 P2 release next month, Geoffroy described this step as “a major opportunity to stress how singular these re-releases of Dom Pérignon are.”
He acknowledged that when the brand first introduced its Oenothèque concept back in 2000 many of the target wine collectors “were a bit doubtful”. However, Geoffroy claimed: “In those 15 years we have been winning them over. People really love both options, but many have been moving over to that more vibrant, high definition wine.”
Thanks to this combination of his own conviction and growing support from customers, Geoffroy outlined an “ambitious” programme, noting: “We have the benefit of many years of Dom Pérignon Oenothèque. Now there is a platform to expand and make it more visible.”
As a result, he promised: “Every year there will be more,” although he would not reveal the precise proportion of stock that would be set aside for longer term aging.
In addition to next month’s launch of P2 1998, Geoffroy confirmed that Dom Pérignon would offer its first P3 releases from the 1970 and 1982 vintages “probably this year.”
Although this represents the last of the house’s three official release stages, he stressed: “To me P3 is not the final thing – the wine will keep improving.” Indeed, Geoffroy assured: “I cannot see any of these vintages not ageing for 100 years, as long as it remains on the lees.”
While noting that “after 60-80 years the whole sediment is evacuated into the wine,” Geoffroy argued that such extended lees contact “adds an element of viscosity and carries the fizz better.” Indeed, he maintained: “After 25 years the fizz is very stable, finely grained – and that is so much thanks to the yeast maturation.”
Looking ahead to the likely re-release dates of younger vintages, Geoffroy insisted: “There is no formula.” However, he did indicate a strengthening preference for holding wines back for a longer period of maturation than in the past.
Looking back to the first release of Dom Pérignon in 2005, Geoffroy admitted: “if I had to release it again, I would release later in 2010. It’s part of the learning curve.”
Similarly, he reflected on the famously hot, little declared 2003 vintage that “the only thing I got wrong was that we released it too young. Everybody was convinced that the wine would develop a bit forward, but it did not.” As a result, he remarked: “The future P2 of ’03 I know will be in excess of 15 years to the vintage.”
Drawing a distinction between the character of the first and second plenitudes, Geoffroy summed up P1 as being “all about harmony”, before noting: “P2 is about energy, propelling it to a third level of integration and complexity.”
In particular, he stressed that each of these characteristics was opposed to the idea of powerful wine, remarking: “Maturity doesn’t translate into power and weight; it translates into energy and precision.”
As the 1998 gets set to appear on the market for a second time, Geoffroy looked back on the changeable weather conditions surrounding its harvest, recalling a hot August with grapes ripening fast, before rain suddenly pushed the harvest date back a week.
With the wet spell then succeeded by the return of “super-warm” temperatures, he remembered: “Many people were rushing behind the ripening so there was over-ripeness and their wines were just a bit out of balance.”
However, for those who did manage their harvest well enough to declare a vintage, Geoffroy pointed to a characteristic “creamy chew”, remarking: “all the best ‘98s have it.”
Following a series of launch events in key markets around the world, Dom Pérignon 1998 P2 is due to go on sale this July with an RRP of £260 per bottle.