Dom Pérignon is the celebrated Champagne produced by Moët et Chandon, created in 1921 and named for the monk who worked as a cellar master at the Abbey of Hautvillers in the 17th century. While the historical Dom Pérignon did not invent fizzy wine, he did champion the concept of blending---the idea that a wine made from different grape varieties becomes more than the sum of its parts. The Champagne named for him is made only from the best grapes, produced only in the finest vintage years. It is the ultimate expression of the house of Moët.
Ah, but I hear you saying that you can buy Dom Pérignon at your local big-box store. Perhaps, but you probably can't get the Rosé, which comprises 5% of the production; it is both rare and stunningly expensive ($450 per bottle on average). What I guarantee you can't purchase there is something from the Oenotheque series. These are limited releases of older vintages which are disgorged prior to shipment. The first Oenotheque Rosé, the 1990, is just arriving in the U.S.
I recently met with Vincent Chaperon, winemaker for Dom Pérignon, to taste both the 2000 and the 1990 Oenotheque Rosé. Chaperon has worked with current cellar master Richard Geoffroy since 1999. He is an intriguing young man who is a self-described risk taker. In his spare time, he enjoys sailing on the Mediterranean, and he views the creation of Dom Pérignon as an existential challenge.
"Storms come up very quickly when you're sailing," he says. "Making Dom Pérignon is similar. You have to trust your instincts, draw on your experience, and make a series of quick decisions. Tension is very important in life. You can't improve unless you are challenged. This is our philosophy at Dom Pérignon---we are always on the edge, always seeking to go to the next level."
Specifically, the tension in Chaperon's winemaking life comes from the difficulty of finding the perfect balance between Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. "This doesn't exist, of course," he laughs, "but we have to try. We are playing with tension on the palate. We're always looking for a seamless transition in the wine, from the attack through the palate and onto the finish."
In the wine world, the proof is in the bottle, and the 2000 Rosé ($350) is more than impressive. It has a pale salmon color and a profound, yeasty nose with scents of red fruits. It is full-bodied and elegant in the mouth, with expansive flavors of wild strawberry and red raspberry. The most remarkable aspect of the wine is its finish---rich and haunting, it seems to continue for a full minute.
As good as it is, the 2000 pales next to the 1990 Oenotheque Rosé ($1100). This wine has an amazing nose of pastry dough, tropical fruits and candied red berries, along with whiffs of mushroom and truffle. It is intense and complex on the palate, with unfolding layers of rhubarb and red fruits---an incredible Champagne, virtually perfect. And the finish? I'm still thinking about it, and that's what I call length.This article originally appeared on palmbeachillustrated.com