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Geoffroy: ‘I’m suspicious of easy years’

Richard Geoffroy, the chef de cave of Dom Pérignon, has admitted that he’s “suspicious” of easy vintages like 2004 where everything falls into place.

Speaking during a launch tasting of the 2006 vintage at celebrity favourite the Chiltern Firehouse in London today, Geoffroy insisted:

“I’m suspicious of the easy years when you have to take a step back as being too hands off is also a risk. It’s the same as other things in life that come too easily.

“I call 2004 our ‘no brainer’ year and I’m not saying that in a derogatory way. It was so easy and faultless. Everything was in balance and it’s one of the most approachable and enjoyable vintages of recent times.

Just landed: Dom Pérignon 2006

“In contrast, 2003 was a ripe, controversial vintage. We picked a week earlier than most houses, which made the vintage. It’s the closest to a still wine in the history of Dom Pérignon. People said it wouldn’t last but the opposite is true; it’s ageing more slowly than the others.”

Geoffroy went on to describe the 2005 vintage as “an iron fist in a velvet glove”. “Most people gave up on 2005 but it had glorious ripeness and dark aromatics,” he said.

Moving on to the house’s latest release – 2006 – Geoffroy admitted that the high PH of the vintage proved problematic. “It needed to be turned around so I had to stretch it out to achieve the signature DP harmony. The vintage is about brightness and the art of blending.

“Despite minimal dosage 2006 is lush and ample, it’s fleshy without being fat and has an intricate, mother of pearl-like gliding texture. It’s one of the most complex vintages at the time of release that I’ve ever made,” he said.

He revealed during the tasting that Icelandic singer Bjork has designed the limited edition 2006 label. “We try to align the artists with the character of the vintage. She’s been on our minds for a while and 2006 was the right vintage for her as it’s all about brightness and light,” he said.

During the tasting Geoffroy expressed a liking for bitterness in Champagne. “An element of bitterness is exquisite to me, it’s part of the overall flavour profile,” he said.

He also spoke of how misunderstood autolysis is in Champagne. “So few Champagnes are able to show pure autolytic character – it’s a very rare thing and DP is one of the only houses to be able to do it.

“A lot of producers get it confused with oxidative aromas and lots of winemakers are in denial about the benefits of yeast maturation,” he said. As for the 2015 vintage, hopes are high with Geoffroy describing it as “average in quantity and fantastic in quality”.

“When conditions are that good it puts pressure on the winemaking. We need to work with what nature has delivered. Most of the malolactic fermentation is done for the 2015 vintage and we’re tasting the base wines at the moment.

“The 2015 vintage was a gift from nature all the way through the growing season. It was the driest year on record in Champagne since records began. There was so little to discard in the blending so I’m not worried about it. I’m pretty confident,” he said.

“The sugars were high but they don’t mean that much to me – they are just one parameter among many. The acid was low and soft, and everything was balanced. People are starting to compare it to 2002, 1961 and 1945 but I think it’s too early to make a call,” he added.

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