Dom Pérignon 2008, a farewell from Richard Geoffroy
A product of wizardry that transcends technical skill in which every element is absolutely precise to create a perfect stylistic balance. More than a wine this is an embrace.
Some experiences are so moving they are difficult to describe. One of these was the premiere of the latest Dom Pérignon Vintage presented by Richard Geoffroy, the Maison’s Chef de Cave since 1990 and the wine’s creator, who at times became quite emotional during the introduction. But this new Dom Pérignon Vintage, extraordinary as it may be, was not the reason why his words, gestures and demeanor seemed so measured, all in an almost surreal silence given how many people were there. It was because he was aware that his presentation was also a farewell.
After 28 years at the helm of the Mason that symbolizes the 20th century rebirth of Champagne, a brand inspired by and named after perhaps the most legendary figure in the history of this wine, Richard Geoffrey cedes his post to 43-year-old Vincent Chaperon, the enologist who for the past 13 years has been by his side even during the many tastings at the Hautvillers Abbey. And the “Dom Pérignon legacy” he passes on is that summed up by Richard Geoffrey’s vision to dare, to always try to go a little beyond the quest for harmony and achieve a more courageous expression of Champagne while always keeping in mind the mantra of “I am not a winemaker, I am a memory-maker”.
With a dedication that made him an undisputed and authentic heir of the monk Dom Pérignon, Richard Geoffrey was for three decades the Maison’s lifeblood, the silent driving force and protector of the “Dom Pérignon legacy”. But now the time has come for him to step aside to make room for a younger man who, like him, will create the Vintage, given that all Dom Pérignon wines are vintage and each vintage is a reinvention, a new metamorphosis.
To help Vincent Chaperon in this new role of great responsibility. Geofffrey has left a Dom Pérignon Manifesto based on ten points: the wine is always a vintage wine; always a blend with a perfect balance between the white and red grapes; at the heart of the blend are the grapes from eight historic Grand Cru villages - Aÿ, Bouzy, Verzenay, Mailly, Chouilly, Cramant, Avize, Le Mesnil – plus those from the Premier Cru village of Hautvillers; during the winemaking process oxidation is the enemy because it betrays the fruit, the land and the year; the intensity of the wine is not in its boldness but its precision, which is expressed by a silky sensation on the palate; the Champagne reveals its complexity through its enormous propensity to age; the second and third Plénitudes last for decades; the wine has a distinctive “minerality” defined by multifaceted sensations that recall the sea and earth; and, finally, the wine is profoundly unique.
And all this is evident in Dom Pérignon 2008, the most legendary wine of the legendary brand, from a harvest that seems to follow in the footsteps of the unforgettable 1998 but from perhaps the longest harvest in history, four weeks. Dom Pérignon 2008 is a toned and tapered muscle, the product of the contrasts from a gray and cold growing season which at the end of summer saw the sun come out to ripen the grapes, an archetype vintage and yet so rare with, for the first time, equal percentages of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
For the blend there is a quest for texture and a bouquet rich in nuances that delineate its luminous borders. There are aromas of sweet osmanthus flower and white tea, lime and citron, crispy apricot and roasted almonds, sesame brittle, dried mint and anise. The mouthfeel is like the elegant gallop of a thoroughbred with its long and relaxed strides, powered by a fresh salinity, a chalky kick and a clear and pulpy fruitiness that closes with a vibrant energy. For this wine the 5g/l dosage and eight years on the lees are minor details as is its 99++/100 rating because we are dealing with an extraordinary Champagne.
Richard Geoffrey described this Dom Pérignon the product of a wizardry that transcends technical skill, in which every element is absolutely precise to create a perfect stylistic balance. More than a wine this is an embrace, one more focused on harmony than boldness, in a quest for an intensity that inspires emotions, because emotions are what memory is made of.
And for us, Richard Geoffroy, with this Dom Pérignon, will always be unforgettable.