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Geoffroy would like all DP to become Oenothèque

Dom Perignon’s chef de cave Richard Geoffroy would like to see his entire production undergo extended ageing in the brand’s cellars, or Oenothèque.

Richard Geoffroy

Currently, just under 10% of the iconic Champagne is held back for at least a further five years ageing on its lees, followed by three year’s cellaring post disgorgement, before it’s released as an Oenothèque vintage with a significantly higher price tag.

However, despite the greater margin earned from the late-release special editions, Geoffroy said that the company’s accountants prevented him from putting all his stock into the Oenothèque.

“One day I would like all to go to the Oenothèque – but the bean counters don’t like the idea so much,” he joked during a tasting of selected DP vintages back to 1973 during the Fine and Rare Specialist wine course at Vienna’s Palais Coburg.

Nevertheless, he added, “I’m fighting it,” pointing out that shareholders at Dom Pérignon’s parent company, LVMH, supported Geoffroy’s decision to launch a vintage from the notoriously hot and challenging 2003 harvest.

“When we made the 2003 the shareholders said you go, we respect you, and they trust me.”

As previously reported by the drinks business, Geoffroy has increased the proportion of DP going into the Oenothèque since the 2002 vintage.

Speaking further during the tasting at the Palais Coburg, he explained that the latest DP Oenothèque is from the 1996 vintage, which has been released alongside the 2003.

Recording that 1996 was first launched in 2003, he said that the Oenothèque version of the 1996 had undergone a further five years on its lees, before disgorgement in 2008.

This extended period in contact with the dead yeast cells produced during secondary fermentation creates a more “complete” Champagne, said Geoffroy.

“It is not making the wine bigger or more powerful, but it magnifies Dom Pérignon,” he added.

Continuing, he explained, “It is more intense than powerful, richer and surprisingly has even less weight… it is more harmonious, more complete, more complex and better textured.”

As for the Oenothèque concept, which sees older vintages released at different stages in their development, he said, “Wine develops in steps and inbetween it can be awkward – Champagne is the same.

“My decision of the time of release is just as important as declaring a vintage, it is a winemaking decision.”

He also compared the disgorgement of Champagne to the bottling of a still wine, pointing out that while there is “one ideal moment” to bottle a still wine, for DP, there are “no less than three moments.”

Referring to experiments at Moët & Chandon, he said that the Champagne producer had found enzymatic activity in Champagne yeast cells after 80 years, debunking the idea that the dead yeasts cells cease to have any significant impact on the wine after around five years.

Finally, he said that the introduction of a DP rosé Oenothèque in 2010 had brought “the wine proposition of Dom Pérignon to completion”.

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