Here’s what the winemaker says about the latest vintage of Dom Pérignon
Launched via Zoom to press worldwide yesterday was the 2010 vintage of Champagne Dom Pérignon, which the cellar master, Vincent Chaperon, described as a “bold wager” and a “forgotten vintage”.
Such comments about the latest vintage release of the prestige cuvée were prompted by the climatic extremes experienced during the 2010 harvest, which led Chaperon to compare the vintage to 2003 – a year when Champagne suffered from frost, hail and a heatwave to produce one of the smallest and ripest crops in the history of the region.
Calling the 2010 a “forgotten vintage”, he said that it came in contrast to critically-acclaimed harvests of this century such as 2008, when conditions were so good that all the houses launched a top single-harvest expression of Champagne.
But, due to challenging weather in 2010 – which we’ll look at shortly – fewer brands have launched a vintage, encouraging Chaperon to say, “We are alone, except for some small wine growers.”
The brand’s decision to persevere with the 2010 harvest stemmed from the Dom Pérignon proposition: as a vintage-only Champagne brand, its aim is not to release a cuvée in just the very best years, but attempt to produce an expression from every harvest.
“We are vintage-only and we want to be a testament to nature,” he said.
Brand positioning aside, the approach is made possible according to Chaperon by the “huge resources” of Dom Pérignon, which is part of Moët Hennessy, a group that is responsible for around 20% of all the Champagne produced annually.
Such “resources” concern “people and vineyards”, with Dom Pérignon having access to around 800 hectares of grand and premier cru vineyards in Champagne.
To draw the consumer’s attention to the similarly challenging nature of 2010 and 2003, he said that these two vintages would be “on the market together next year”, with a late-release expression of the 2003 harvest coming out in 2021 under Dom Pérignon’s P2 label.
“These are two vintages where we are alone, and which underline Dom Pérignon’s singularity,” he stated.
So what made 2010 such a “daunting challenge”, to use the words of Chaperon?
This was due to due to botrytis – which is a type of fungus – that attacked the Pinot Noir vines during the vintage.
The source of this fungal attack on the berries was a mid-summer deluge, with the equivalent of two months of rain falling in just two days from 15-16 August. Such a high level of moisture in the ground, when combined with warmth in the air, led to rapid maturation of the grapes, and, then, around three-weeks later, the spread of botrytis.
“Until the weekend of 4-5 September, no-one in Champagne had any concerns but then we suddenly realised we would have to make huge sacrifices with part of the harvest in order to save the best parcels and try to make a Dom Pérignon vintage,” said Chaperon. “It became a race against the clock. The grapes were not yet fully ripe, so we put all our resources into mapping the vineyards by the health and maturity of each parcel. This meant we could clearly evaluate the situation and work to save the excellent plots of Pinot Noir that we did have. But every minute counted,” he said, referring to a need to pick the grapes faster than the botrytis was spreading.
Chaperon said that the viticultural team focused exclusively on the grapes that the botrytis had spared. “Each day, specific parcels were selected and the grapes meticulously sorted based on our on-the-spot observations and our innate knowledge of the terroir,” he explained. “We found that the Pinot Noir grapes we saved were absolutely glorious, echoing the quality of the Chardonnay, which had benefited from a complete maturation. They showed richness, concentration and balance and were actually the best in the last 30 years.”
Chaperon added: “Dom Pérignon 2010 was a bold wager, the fruit of our unwavering commitment to expressing nature. But it is a wager that has been won thanks to inspiration and to the mastery that comes from experience.”
Indeed, he said that the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay picked in 2010 had the third highest sugar content of vintages in that same past decade, with only 2002 and 2003 seeing slightly higher levels, while the 2010 had the second highest level of acidity, ensuring that this vintage has “fantastic balance, with richness and freshness.”
Commenting further on the taste of 2010 Dom Pérignon, Chaperon said that it is a Champagne with “generous fruitiness,” noting that it is “ample” and “open at this early stage of its life”.
Summing up about the Champagne, which he said had plenty of body, acidity, and a salinity, he said, “It is a very physical wine”.
Dom Pérignon 2010: the facts
- RRP: £152.00
- Vintage: 2010
- Disgorgement date: February 2019
- Dosage: 5g/l
- Grape composition: 54% Chardonnay, 46% Pinot Noir
Here is a tasting note from Dom Pérignon
The luminous sweetness of tropical fruit – green mango, melon and pineapple – instantly shines. It then cedes to more temperate notes, the tingle of orange zest, the mist of a mandarin orange. On the palate the wine immediately imposes its ample presence, full and massive. A sappy sensation dominates as the tactile is rapidly overtaken by the aromatic. The body unfolds: generous, firm and controlled. Then it contracts, letting the wine vibrate with spices and pepper. The energy is sustained to a scintillating, saline finish.