I’ve written before about Champagne, “grande marquee” Champagne, here. And I think I made the point that, for many, what it tastes like isn’t the only point. You don’t stick a Rolex round your wrist just to tell the time.
Whilst in terms of ultimate class, the real know how, a bottle of Winston Churchill is the pinnacle of effervescent vinous class as far as I’m concerned, the leader – the Rolex, if you like – of top kit Champagne is Dom Perignon, and they launched their 2003 vintage last week.
Vintage first: 2003 was the summer when people died in France on account of the heat. A year of extremes which produced some extreme wines, some of which continue to divide opinions. 2003 clarets range from Widdecombe to Aguilera in terms of character, etc; 2003 red Burgundies aren’t quite so varied but most are the very least “Californian” in style. The Rhones mostly taste of sunshine and raisins. The first 2003 Champagne I tasted was “2003 by Bollinger”, named as such on account of its character: Bollinger clearly wanted to release it (and sell it) but this clearly wasn’t “Grande Annee”, more “Dolly Bolly”. It was rather good, just not very serious.
Someone told me once that at least two pounds – at the time about 10% of the retail price – of a bottle of Moet & Chandon Brut Imperial went towards their marketing costs. At the time Moet (if you know what you’re talking about you pronounce the “t”) was the leader in its field – it was certainly what was pinched most from my shop in Marylebone.
The marketing for DP does not disappoint. The “launch tasting” of the 2003 was held at Phillips de Pury. I’m not quite sure what they do but I know that it’s glamorous, cool and expensive. There were as many staff as tasters on hand and, save for one sommelier (I presume) at my table, it was clear who was tasting and serving – the beautiful people were the staff. And the staff weren’t just pretty. After half an hour or so of DP’s winemaker – Richard Geoffroy – telling the story of the wine in a rather perambulatory fashion we were invited to taste the wine with four different dishes – this experience (which has been trademarked) was called “Dark Revelations” and hosted by this guy. Irritatingly pretty; highly competent to boot. My point being in that there was more than sheer gloss to this event.
Mr Geoffroy had come out with some cracking quotes in the preamble to this: “we had to take the risk to make it”, “nobody wrote off 1947” and, the best: “Dom Perignon is a loose envelope of spirit allowing the characteristics of the vintage into it”. The man speaks like Pink Floyd play and I’m sure he would make even more sense with a little narcotic help.
My unedited note reads:
“Some lime and some toast on the nose. Definitely serious. Something Burgundian, some cool honey and muscle.. Chassagne .. and this is rather special in mouth. Very gentle bubbles. Very delicate – I see what (R. Geoffroy) means about floating. Some tannin almost coming in at the end. This manages lift and power at the same time. Power comes through like a train at the finish. Disco DP, yes, though plenty, plenty here. This is rather good. Silky. Very impressive. Silk hammer. V. good. Persistence of fruit.”
For what it’s worth, I’d say that’s 93 JnJ points or thereabouts.
I have missed out much of Richard Geoffroy’s ramblings. These were mostly vinous but also included, significantly if you ask me, a discussion on very high end tea – we even got on to the subject of “single bush tea”. I thought this significant, and I concede that I may have the wrong end of the stick, in that it struck me that we might just have someone intelligently marketing to the Far East. Marketing to the palate rather than to the wallet or ego. And marketing is what Champagne is all about. 2003 Dom Perignon is very good wine – I could drink an awful lot of it – but its success depends on more than that. And the marketing of this product is spot on. The girls are pretty – yes – but they’re also very, very clever.