“There is no wine life after Dom Pérignon,” so says Dom Pérignon’s departing chef de cave, Richard Geoffroy, when asked what does his future hold. As he hands over the reins of the luxury Champagne house over to Vincent Chaperon, Anne Krebiehl MW was on hand to hear Geoffroy explain the thinking behind the newly-launched 2008 vintage and where the Dom Pérignon style sits amongst all this.
2008 looked like it was going to be an average year until that blissful September when Dom Pérignon knew that they could make a Champagne bright and precise but also one with real muscle.
“We have a big agenda,” said Richard Geoffroy at the French Embassy in London on Tuesday morning. “We get to introduce a new vintage and then there is the handover to Vincent.” He spoke, of course, about the launch of Dom Pérignon 2008, his just-announced retirement from the luxury brand, and the handing over of his role as chef de cave to Vincent Chaperon who will take over on 1 January, 2019.
Geoffroy said that the transition had been planned for some time and that he and Chaperon had worked “hand in hand” since 2008. Chaperon himself said it was “a relationship of aspiration and inspiration. We are both dreamers and entrepreneurs.”
Chaperon added that the years 2008 and 2009 marked a period of “dynamic reflection and huge debate to make Dom Pérignon as bright, as precise as it has always been but to make it richer, more fleshy.” Both he and Geoffroy compared 2008 to 1996 due to the fresh acidity, with Geoffroy noting that 2008 had ‘muscle’.
“We consider it athletic. 2008 has more substance. It is a case of revisiting the archetype.” Chaperon continued: “We are always reading back: Without 1996 we would not have been able to stretch 2008 like this, to leverage it to another level. Every vintage is an opportunity to expand.”
Both Chaperon and Geoffroy emphasised ripeness as a cornerstone of Dom Pérignon’s style. Geoffroy said that he is often asked about Dom Pérignon’s philosophy of declaring a vintage. “It’s ripeness of fruit. As long as it’s ripe we go for it. Yes, we declared five successive vintages [he means 2002-2006], we’ve got the technical resources, but we also got the guts. It’s important. Sometimes I’m asked if I will declare every vintage, that’s the dream, but of course we cannot declare 2001 or 2007. We are on a mission to make vintages.”
As for his impending retirement, Geoffroy said he was going to work on other projects. “It’s not wine, that’s all I can say. There is no wine life after Dom Pérignon.” The ease and friendship between the two chefs de cave is obvious. Chaperon looks comfortable in his new role – guts and all.
So how does Dom Pérignon 2008 taste?
The nose is fresh with faint hints of lemon zest and wet chalk. With a little air there are overtones of smoky flint. This relative restraint turns into full-on generosity on the palate where an exquisite but slender creaminess fizzes in the most miniscule bubbles. There is almost something emollient to this. It is generous but comes on tip-toe. There is a promise, too, of future richness. The finish is fresh and lasting.