Producer profile: Dom Pérignon Champagne
Read our profile on Dom Pérignon and see tasting notes and scores from Decanter’s experts…
Dom Pérignon is named after a 17th century Benedictine monk, Dom Pierre Pérignon (1638-1715), who is said to have invented sparkling wine during his tenure as cellarmaster at the Abbey of Hautvillers, near the town of Épernay.
In truth, his task at the abbey was the polar opposite to the myth – to find a way to prevent a second fermentation in the bottle because so much stock was being lost from exploding bottles.
Sparkling wine was already in production in France, made by bottling wine while it was still fermenting. This method, known as pétillant-naturel or simply ‘pét nat’, is still used today in parts of France and even in the USA.
It was an English scientist, Christopher Merret, who first recorded the method used in Champagne today – adding sugar to an already fermented wine to cause a second fermentation. He was able to achieve this thanks to the superior strength of English glass bottles, compared to the French equivalents.
What is believed, however, is that Dom Pierre Pérignon pioneered viticultural and winemaking methods that transformed the wines of Champagne – not only did he import the stronger bottles from England, but he also sought to improve the quality of the wine he made.
A document published three years after his death attributed several pioneering winemaking methods to the monk, including :
- Pruning to reduce yields but improve concentration
- Careful treatment of the grapes to avoid breaking the skins and exposing the juice to the air
- Multiple gentle pressings to minimise skin contact and extraction of tannins
Moët & Chandon bought the brand name for their prestige cuvée in 1937. Today, Dom Pérignon is part of the Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH) empire owned by France’s richest man, Bernard Arnault. It has been the Champagne of choice for numerous celebrities and royalty over the years. Memorably it was chosen for the wedding of Lady Diana Spencer and Prince Charles in 1981.
In 1959, Dom Pérignon added a Rosé Champagne to its range.
Dom Pérignon’s chef de cave since 1990, Richard Geoffroy, is handing over the reins in 2019 to Vincent Chaperon. They have worked together for 13 harvests.
Read more about chef de cave changeovers in the January 2019 issue of Decanter magazine – also available soon on Decanter Premium
Dom Pérignon is a vintage Champagne made using an approximate blend of 50% Pinot Noir and 50% Chardonnay. Although numbers are never officially published, it is thought that upwards of a million bottles are produced per vintage. Despite this scale, it remains one of the highest-rated and most desirable Champagnes on the market.
Long-aged versions of Dom Pérignon vintages are kept on their lees in the cellars until such a time as the chef de cave deems them ready to release. The P2 1998 marked both the end of the Oenothèque range and the first in its new ‘plenitude’ series. The plenitude concept captures three different stages of a wine’s development – different expressions of the same wine through its lifetime.
P1 comes approximately eight years after the vintage, while P2 takes roughly 15 years, 12 of which are spent on its lees. P3 takes place between 30 and 40 years after the vintage, with no less than 20 years on its lees.
In his masterclass at the Decanter Fine Wine Encounter 2018, Geoffroy described P2 as ‘beyond Champagne.’
Which is the best Dom Pérignon?
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