Last week, as reported on thedrinksbusiness.com, Champagne giant Dom Pérignon hosted five simultaneous international events in London, Hong Kong, Paris, New York and Tokyo, to launch its 2003 vintage – a controversial release due to the extreme heat of the year. With each event linked by satellite, chef de cave Richard Geoffroy introduced the wine Star Wars-style via hologram, appearing as an electric blue spectral figure and answering questions on the vintage from the five cities in turn.
“Everyone was expecting a very powerful, sun-filled and rapidly maturing wine – a real challenge for the creation of Dom Pérignon,” Geoffroy told us. “It was a risk, which may be rewarded now. It’s at the heart of the house’s values – we’re committed to vintage Champagne. My wish is for Dom Pérignon 2003 to remain one of the greatest examples of the vintage in the history of Champagne.”
Guests in London gathered at the über swish Phillips de Pury auction house in St James’s, where black-and-white stills of the Dom Pérignon vineyards in Hautvilliers were projected onto the whitewashed walls, along with an up-to-the-second Twitter feed from invitees across the five cities. In between sips of the freshly released ’03, we were treated to whipped truffled egg, caviar on beetroot jelly, and seared foie gras.
The 2003 vintage left an indelible mark on the region. After a cold, harsh winter, the initial warmth of spring proved deceptive. On 11 April a severe frost destroyed up to 75% of the Côte des Blancs Chardonnay crop. The unseasonal spring was followed by a heat wave as the region experienced its hottest summer for 53 years, resulting in the earliest Champagne harvest since 1822.
Undeterred, Geoffroy embraced the challenge: “At no moment in time was there any question of giving up. Instead, we seized the opportunity to create the 2003 vintage,” he said, adding, “Intensity is the signature 2003. It’s unique and paradoxical, hovering between austerity and generosity. It has tremendous ageing potential, but is also very enjoyable now as it’s so expressive.” Commenting on the 2011 vintage, Geoffroy was less upbeat: “2011 was less spectacular than 2003, it will be hard to predict how it will mature.” Dom Pérignon 2003 will be available in the UK from February 2012 with an RRP of £120.