Dom Pérignon re-brands Oenothèque
Dom Pérignon has changed the name of its late-release, recently-disgorged Champagne with the unveiling of its 1998 vintage.
Previously called Oenothèque, the house has labeled its latest vintage re-release “P2 – 1998”, referring to the fact this launch represents the second “plenitude” of the 1998 vintage, which was first released to the market in 2005.
Speaking to the drinks business ahead of the launch, Dom Pérignon cellar master Richard Geoffroy said he would continue to use the term “Oenothèque” for the brand’s storage facility in Champagne, but employ the word “Plénitude” for the vintage releases.
“Dom Pérignon has developed through plenitudes since day one, so there is nothing new, but we felt that instead of referring to oenothèque, which is the site holding the inventory, it was better to refer to plenitude.”
Continuing, he said that the decision was motivated by a desire to highlight the benefits of extended ageing on the lees for Dom Pérignon.
“We thought it was more relevant to come up with something evoking the phenomenon of active maturation on the yeast, which is so salient and singular to Dom Pérignon.”
“And because the 1998 vintage is launching on its second plenitude, we have come up with Dom Pérignon P2 – 1998,” he added.
“But we will keep referring to oenothèque as the actual physical place [where the wines are stored],” he said.
Explaining further the plenitude concept, Geoffroy told db that Dom Pérignon, when left in contact with its lees, does not evolve in a linear fashion, but ages in a series of stages, producing “windows of opportunity, or plenitudes” when he believes the Champagne can be disgorged and released to bring consumers a different expression of the same vintage.
“The programme is based on the observation that these wines don’t develop in a steady or linear way, but in plateaus, giving windows of expressions,” he recorded.
Geoffroy said he witnesses “no less than three windows in the life of a given vintage,” pointing out that the first plenitude comes around eight years after the vintage, which is when Dom Pérignon Vintage is released, while the second one arrives between 12 and 15 years – which was previously the first oenothèque release, but from now will be know as P2.
“Eventually there is a third window, after around 30 years, when the Champagne has spent no less than 20 years on its lees,” he said.
After this, Geoffory recorded that “the wines evolve very slowly and more steadily.”
Speaking further of the three windows or plenitudes, he added, “These are moments in the life of a wine when it stands up and speaks out of an exciting character.”
Then, drawing attention to the value of extended ageing on the lees for Dom Pérignon specifically, as opposed to maturation post-disgorgement, Geoffroy said, “We are are strong believers in the virtue of yeast maturation – we think it dramatically contributes to the singularity of Dom Pérignon.”
The P2 – 1998 was unveiled late last week in Iceland, and has spent 12 years ageing on its lees, with a further two years resting post disgorgement in the Dom Pérignon cellars. It follows the Oenothèque 1996.
There will be no re-release of a rosé to complement the unveiling of blanc P2 – 1998, although next year Dom Pérignon will launch a rosé P2 from the 1995 vintage.
Geoffroy explained, “There is no vintage ready for a second release for rosé, so we remain with the 1993.”
However, he added, “Next year, Dom Pérignon will launch a rosé from 1995.”
Geoffroy continued, “It couldn’t be synchronised; the wine dictates the timing, and we couldn’t make them to coincide in one event – it is not the nature of wine.”
During the discussion with db, Geoffroy did not want to announce whether Dom Pérignon would follow the 2004 vintage, launched last year, with the 2005 – a vintage that Moët has decided to skip.
However, he did stress that every vintage released by Dom Pérignon must be good enough to go into the brand’s cellars for extended ageing on the lees.
“We would not consider making a vintage which we wouldn’t be able to re-release through a second or third plenitude,” he said, adding, “The capacity to go to a second or third plenitude is a criteria of declaration.”
When asked about the characteristics of each plenitude, Geoffroy said the first vintage release displayed “harmony”, pointing out that the 2004 vintage launched last year needed nine years ageing on its lees to have “an overall harmony”.
With the second release, or plenitude, Geoffroy looks for “energy”, an aspect he said was evident in the release of P2 – 1998.
“The 1998 is about energy: the wine is already 16 years to the vintage. You could well expect the maturity of the wine to be based on weight and power – paradoxically it is not.
“It is full, packed with energy – so lifted, so Dom Pérignon, so penetrating; energetic and dancing, nothing weighty, nothing tired or oxidative.”
As for a third plenitude, Geoffroy said that he witnesses “something more accomplished, streamlined, integrated and more into complexity – but integration is the one word: it is when all the characters are back to the core of the wine.”
But, he then stressed, “The lifespan of Dom Pérignon is far more than 30-40 years, and from the third plentitude, the wine will keep improving.”
Dom Pérignon puts around 10% aside of every vintage into the house’s cellars for extended ageing, and then Geoffroy and his winemaking team taste the wines twice a year to monitor the Champagnes’ evolution.
When Geoffroy believes the wine is ripe for its second or third release, he disgorges the Champagne in one go, and, since 2000, has printed the disgorgement year on the label.
The dosages for Dom Pérignon’s late-release Champagnes are lower, and always under 6 g/l of sugar, compared to between 6 to 7 g/l for the first release.
The 1998 – P2 was launched in Iceland last week and will be shown to UK trade and press in early June.