If you did away with the glamour and hype associated with the world’s most marketed prestige champagne, you would find that it stands very steadfastly on its own feet. Dom Pérignon is unique that way; managing to catch the eye of an upwardly mobile generation whilst maintaining a loyal following of seasoned wine lovers around the world.
Beyond the luxe allure of its esteemed brand, Dom Pérignon’s true appeal can be found in its metamorphosis over decades of time. Yet, paradoxically, the vast majority of cuvées are consumed young. In their youth, Dom Pérignon often presents everything that is true to its reductive style – tight and inward-looking – sometimes leaving consumers to wonder what all the fuss is about.
Not until it reaches its second and third ‘life’, does it reveal all that is intriguing about this house…what I like to call, the Dom Pérignon ‘epiphany’.
In recent years, the house has geared its portfolio to highlight this, launching a chronology of release dates for exceptional vintages starting with its standard release (after 7-10 years) before moving into the Second Plenitude P2 (15+ years) and Third Plenitude P3 (30+ years), revealing leaps in wine maturity over the course of time. Whilst each P2 and P3 bottle spends extra time on lees, they are not necessarily disgorged close to release. Each one receives additional time under cork post-disgorgement.
It’s an interesting study into the tangential relationship of time and lees contact on champagne made in a definitively reductive way. Extended lees contact is incredibly fortifying, serving to protect and embellish champagne wine almost indefinitely. The effect of lees is measured in the appearance of development, acting like a youth elixir to slow down ageing and impart freshness whilst adding creaminess, toastiness and texture.
1998 was the first to be launched under the new P2 format in 2014 (replacing the Oenothèque system), followed by the release of P2 2000 in 2017. The P2 2000 remains the most current release from the P2 range.
In 2017 I attended a pre-release tasting of P2 2000 in Sydney with Dom Pérignon oenologist (now, chef de cave), Vincent Chaperon, where I sampled both. According to Chaperon, P2 “exuded higher energy” and “spoke more loudly” than its predecessor. Indeed it did.
But what was most intriguing was the evolving play of tension between chardonnay and pinot noir in the unique life of a bottle of Dom Pérignon. Complexity and freshness sit at polar opposites but somehow come together, infusing the wine with what can only be described as the Dom Pérignon paradox. By comparison, their original release counterparts – with cork age – are typically more developed; richer, rounder and toastier, having spent considerably more time off lees.
I recently re-tasted the two P2s. My tasting notes follow.
Dom Pérignon P2 2000
52% chardonnay and 48% pinot noir. Bottles were matured for 15 years on lees before disgorgement in May 2016, receiving a dosage of 4g/L. Bottles were aged for one year post-disgorgement before the Australian release in late 2017. The original 2000 vintage was released in 2008.
A pronounced nose of lavender, pineapple and classically reductive notes featuring smokey, almost bark-like qualities. The palate is lifted, saline and creamy with a fine texture, channelled into precision with all the hallmark traits of Dom Pérignon’s energy, tension and phenolic structure. Excellent length with a dry and chalky finish.
Dom Pérignon P2 1998
55% chardonnay and 45% pinot noir. Bottles were matured for 10 years on lees before disgorgement in 2009, receiving a dosage of 6.5g/L. The original 1998 vintage was launched in 2005, followed by P2 1998 in 2014.
The nose offers up a bouquet of honeysuckle, butterscotch, lemon curd and sappy yellow flowers with the addition of bready, toasty complexity. On the palate it teeters between the reductiveness of its extended lees contact and the emancipation of post-disgorgement ageing, producing great tension, drive and length with a mineral edge. This is Dom Pérignon heartland – all the delights of this champagne now having entered the inner sanctum of second life development.
WORDS | Sara Underdown
PHOTOGRAPHY | Dom Pérignon