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Dom Pérignon sets out key to success in 2005

It was not so much quality concerns but a volume shortfall that led so few Champagne houses to make a vintage in 2005, suggested Vincent Chaperon of Dom Pérignon in the wake of its own release from this year.

Dom Pérignon oenologist Vincent Chaperon discusses the house's philosophy at an event in London this week.
Dom Pérignon oenologist Vincent Chaperon

Praising the “great structure and richness” of Dom Pérignon 2005, which has just been released, Chaperon drew a comparison with the style of 1995 as he recalled the warm weather that characterised this growing season. However, this warmth posed problems when rain hit Champagne in September, leading to an outbreak of widespread rot.

“The biggest challenge was during the harvest,” remarked Chaperon, who works with cellar master Richard Geoffroy as oenologist for Dom Pérignon. “The reason few houses declared was not a problem of quality, it was a problem of rarity. We had good things but in very small quantity because of botrytis on the Pinot Noir quite early in September so the challenge was to got to plots that were not attacked and to be able to sort grapes in every plot.”

While very few houses produced a vintage style in 2005, many preferring to focus on the highly rated 2004 and 2006 instead, a number of other prestige cuvées have been released from this year, including Louis Roederer Cristal, Bollinger La Grande Année and Taittinger Comtes de Champagne.

Chaperon attributed Dom Pérignon’s ability to produce sufficient quantities in 2005 to the fact that the house either owns vineyards or has grape contracts in 16 of the region’s 17 grand cru villages. “Diversity is key for Dom Pérignon; it is not an opportunity, it is key,” he stressed. “It is because we have a big diversity of vineyard that we are able to make Dom Pérignon almost every year.”

In recent history 2001 and 1997 are the only years when the house has not produced a vintage expression – a major hit for Dom Pérignon, since it does not have a non-vintage cuvée to fall back on. The house even made a vintage Champagne in the challenging heat of the 2003 harvest.

“We define ourselves as warriors,” remarked Chaperon. “There is no non-vintage so we are fighting until the end, when others can reconsider.”

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