Dom Pérignon 2013 ‘last of the Mohicans’, says cellar master
Hailing from an unusually late-ripening harvest in a warm and sunny century, Dom Pérignon’s just-released 2013 could be “the last of the Mohicans”, according to cellar master Vincent Chaperon. db gives its verdict.
Speaking to db in January at Dom Pérignon’s HQ in Hautvillers, Chaperon emphasised the special nature of the 2013 vintage, which was released officially in London last week with an RRP of more than £200.
With Champagne experiencing a run of warmer vintages this century, requiring pickers to start harvesting in early September and sometimes August, the 2013 vintage was one of the few times in recent history when the majority of the berries were brought in during October, and the last time the harvest has begun this late.
“The 2013 is a vintage which now looks like a classic, it was an exception, because it was an October harvest, and perhaps the last one we will have; it is the last of the Mohicans,” he told db.
Looking back to years that pre-date this latest release, Chaperon said that the last similarly late harvest was the 2004 vintage, before commenting on the increasing frequency of sunny, warm years in Champagne over the past 20 years, which are conditions that “push ripeness”.
Turning his attention to 2013, he said that it was a relatively late-ripening year by modern standards, but also schooled against assuming that this meant it was a cool vintage.
Recording that the picking began on 28 September due to a late start to the growing cycle, which was a result of “a cold and wet winter” followed by “a cool and rainy” spring, he said that “budding began two weeks later than normal”, adding, “and you never get that back” – which is why the harvest was later than usual.
However, the summer was very different to winter and spring. In fact, “It was the warmest and driest summer of the past 20 years,” Chaperon said, highlighting the contrasting conditions, while comparing 2013 with preceding years.
As a result, he said, “2013 is not as simple as you might think: it is a mix of a late-harvest vintage with the concentration that comes from a warm and very dry summer.”
Continuing he said, “It was an extreme winter and an extreme summer; global warming is not only about an increasing of average temperatures, but also about more extremes – and 2013 is an example.”
What does this mean for the style of the Champagne from this harvest? “2013 gives us two big characteristics: it gives concentration, because it was warm and dry; and freshness, because the late harvest meant that we were picking in conditions when the temperature and sunlight was lower, so you keep a high acidity.”
Summing up, he said that the Dom Pérignon 2013 had “freshness and tension with concentration,” while stressing that the impression of acidity in the Champagne was not “sharp”, but “round and harmonious”. Finally, he described the Champagne as “higher in weight and density” than 2004 or 1992, which were two late-harvest vintages in Champagne.
Tasted: Dom Pérignon 2013
A fine, youthful-tasting, and delicious Dom Pérignon that’s rich in contrasting characters, from its upfront ripe yellow fruit and creamy-textured core to its lingering citrus-fresh finish. Flavours of cappuccino and hazelnut are joined by plum and pineapple, followed by subtle layers of crushed chalk and toasted bread, along with a gently bitter note of grapefruit pith, which brings a pleasant and palate-cleansing edge. While appealing to drink now, the taut nature of this release suggests there’s more to give, with a grilled nutty element likely to develop with another 12-24 months’ worth of cellaring. (Patrick Schmitt MW, January 2023)