How Good is Dom Pérignon Champagne?
Reviewing 2009-Vintage Iconic Moët & Chandon Dom Perignon Champagne Wine
Eric Asimov once wrote for the New York Times: “It’s worth noting that while Dom Pérignon is perhaps the most famous Champagne in the world, it is far better known as a brand than a wine, invoked more often for what it signifies than for how it feels and tastes.”
I had to make my humble contribution to changing this, and broadcast the knowledge of how Dom Perignon really tastes like, beyond the fame, glamour, and marketing hype.
Is DP actually a good Champagne to taste?
I guess it is a common trait with highly-priced and highly-demanded wines to be famous as brands, but not as a product. We all fancy trying them, because everyone that has, seems to be raving about them.
But not often do we physically get an opportunity to experience the taste of the most expensive wine gems.
My First-Ever Taste of Dom Pérignon
Do I dare to say it, this (yesterday), was in fact my first-ever taste of Dom Pérignon in my entire life?
Oops, I think I just did say it. And that’s the whole point!
I have tasted many outstanding wines, some of them among the most highly-regarded ones.
Of course, I have heard about Dom Pérignon all my adult life. But I had never actually come across a real-life bottle with the real wine inside it.
Only had I seen too many wannabee wine stars sharing daily pictures of it on Instagram. Because you know, glamorous shots of DP bring you large number of likes and engagement, or so it seems.
Still, being a Dom P virgin, but having tasted so many other amazing wines, makes me think I might have an objective view on it, now that I am finally getting to review and write about it…
Why So Much Fame?
Part of Dom Pérignon’s fame, is the significant volume of it that is distributed around all corners of the globe. Ed MacCarthy wrote for winereviewonline: “Moét-Hennessy’s policy is to not reveal the volume of Champagnes it makes, probably in recognition of a common fallacy that large numbers of wines and top quality cannot co-exist. We do know that Moët & Chandon, the world’s largest Champagne house, produces 30 million plus bottles annually. My guess is that Moët makes about four million bottles of Dom Pérignon annually; it could be more, it could be less. In my mind, this production makes Geoffroy’s work at Dom Pérignon even more amazing.”
Which makes it even more surprising why so few people seem to know and be able to describe what the Champagne tastes like!
Documenting Facts About DP
So let’s, once and for all, document what a bottle of Dom Pérignon, at least the latest vintage available for actually taste like.
But before that, for those interested, let me provide a couple of background information points, about what’s involved in making Dom Pérignon, and how this particular 2009 vintage climatic conditions were like.
10 Things You Should Know about Dom Pérignon
Winemaking facts, and more…
- Unlike most Champagne blends that use 3 grapes varieties, the assemblage of Dom Pérignon is only made of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier is not included.
- Richard Geoffroy is the chief winemaker at Dom Pérignon, or ‘Chef de Cave’ as they are called in French. And he has been since 1996, becoming arguably one of the most famous winemakers in the world.
- Geoffroy blends Chardonnay and Pinot Noir at proportions around 50% each, depending on the vintage, sometimes increasing the proportion of one grape variety versus the other up to a 60:40 ratio.
- Grapes are sourced from Grand Cru vineyards of Champagne (both from the Côte des Blancs and Montagne de Reims sub-regions), and from the Premier Cru sites of Hautvillers around the historic Abbey where Dom Pérignon, the monk, was the cellarmaster, back around the years 1700 .
- Like all grapes in Champagne, France, those grapes for Dom P are exclusively hand-picked.
- The first fermentation is run in stainless steel tanks, as well as the malolactic fermentation.
- Dom Perignon uses its own strains of yeasts both for the first fermentation, AND the second one (in bottle).
- DP prestige cuvée Champagne is produced completely without using oak barrels.
- Dom Pérignon Champagne is aged on lees in the bottles for a minimum of 7 years before release, although this varies depending on the vintage. A vintage of Dom Pérignon is not released until it’s ready to be enjoyed and has achieved sufficient maturity. As an example, vintage 2008 has not been released yet, while the 2009 reviewed here is on the market, because 08 requires more maturation time (release expected around 2019).
- Vintages of Dom Pérignon are released in 3 phases of ageing and maturity: P1, or Plénitude 1 if the first stage of maturity, generally released after 7-9 years in the cellar; P2, or Plénitude 2 are vintages aged for 12 to 14 years at the winery; while P3 are wines that have reached full maturity after spending over 20 years on lees.
Vintage 2009 in short
Here is what winemaker Richard Geoffroy says about 2009 vintage, who else could describe the conditions in Champagne that year better than him: “In July 2009, nothing could have let us foresee that this would be the vintage of paroxysmal fruit. A cold winter followed by a mild and rainy spring; a difficult flowering season with strong downy mildew pressure, worsened by thunderstorms in July: things were not looking bright until a perfect month of August. The weather turned dry and hot until the end of harvest, with the exception of some hail on Hautvillers, Verzenay and Chouilly at the beginning of September. The harvest, which started on September 12, was idyllic. The grapes, in perfect condition, showed an incredible level of maturity.” You can read more on Richard Geoffroy’s blog post about 2009.
In short, vintage 2009 will be remembered as a fairly warm vintage, giving generously-ripe grapes, often with rich flavors, although not as much so as hot vintages like 2003 or 2005.
So, What Does Dom Perignon Champagne Actually Taste Like?
The answer is in the Tasting Notes
Dom P Champagne comes in a bright and shiny lemon-yellow color with solid intensity, and more importantly, with plenty of gold hues making it look particularly vibrant, lively, and shiny to look at.
The nose is both intense AND, somewhat, delicate.
There are intense notes of roasted hazelnut, delicate vanilla, and sweet caramel, combined with honey and weighty floral aromas, like lily. Ripe but zesty lemon is also very clear and bright, augmented by deeper grapefruit notes.
Yes, it’s powerful to smell at, and somewhat quite oaky too, but it is also very elegant, the floral and fruity components shining through with ease and harmony with the toasted nuts, sweet spices, and briochy elements in the aromatic profile.
It is certainly a complex and very charming wine to smell at!
Put the wine in your mouth, and it fills up your palate straight away with a smooth oily texture, delivering pungent and layered flavors that seem to demand your most careful attention.
The Champagne is dry, with a crisp and lively acidity providing a constant mineral tension all along the tasting. The balance with the oily body, and a hint of residual sugars is captivating.
After a first impression dominated by zesty ripe lemon flavors, the mid-palate bursts in a myriad of notes, from orange peel to honey and walnut, through jammy apricot, a hint of tropical pineapple and green mango, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg, with fennel and much more.
The whole feels utterly generous and opulent, from such explosive citrus and tropical fruit notes underlined by toasty and spicy flavors. Yet, the whole, again, feels harmonious and balanced, from a complex balance of smooth phenolics, a round body, and a sharp acidity cutting through the richness.
As expected once you’ve experienced so much on the palate, the finish is long and layered, and gives you further time to enjoy and analyze the many components in the wine. A hint of savory bitterness, combined with a slight saltiness, make for a lasting salivating feel to the finish, making you want to go for more.
This also suggests that, despite the utter balance of the wine on its own, and the enjoyment it provides just at tasting, it will also work wonders with delicately-flavored food and dishes.
A Conclusion? Dom Perignon IS a great Champagne wine…
Yes, Dom Perignon is a truly outstanding wine, featuring powerful flavors of fruit, oak, and leesy notes from its long ageing in bottle.
Yes, as well, some might find it a little too powerful and filled with too much of these nutty, brioche, biscuit, and oaky characters. They are here, no denying.
But there is no arguing, in my humble opinion, that the fruit character shines through brilliantly, with a wealth of zesty and crispy citrus notes, augmented by stonefruit, tropical elements, even some red berries in fact from the Pinot.
More importantly, the overall balance, and the sheer concentration of the acidic and the oily textural body, plus the huge aromatic intensity, make for a striking tasting experience
It pulls your senses in all directions, exciting your taste buds and your nose frantically, especially if you’re a careful taster.
What else needs saying? Yes, there are subtler Champagne wines out there for sure. But the terroir and savoir-faire (know-how) of Champagne is undeniably present, with class and style, in a bottle of 2009-vintage Dome Perignon…
Some subsidiary questions, and their answers, because I know you’re wondering. Let’s talk about the price of Dom Pérignon Champagne wine….
How much is a bottle of Dom?
There is no one single answer to this question.
Although, if you’re looking at buying a recent vintage of Dom P, like this latest release 2009 vintage, you will be looking at a retail price around $200 (USD dollars) in the US, €170 (euros) in Europe, or £150 (GBP pound) in the UK.
Dom Pérignon rosé will set you back by about $300.
But prices vary greatly depending on the vintage, and how old the wine is. For example, bottles of Plénitude P3, aged on less for over 20 years in the winery’s cellar until the wine has reached its full maturity, wines from the 1960s or 1970s, will go out for no less than $1500 to $2000.
What is the most expensive bottle of Dom Perignon?
The most expensive version of Dom Perignon is a very select limited edition called White Gold. First made for vintage 1995, the collector’s item is only available as a Jeroboam (3-litre bottle) encased in a plated white gold bottle sheath which is laser engraved with the Dom Perignon label.
It is available for a mere $17,000 in the USA.
Read more about the Top 20 Most Expensive Champagnes clicking through on the image below:
What is a good year for Dom Perignon?
Vintages that do not provide good-enough conditions to produce the expected quality of Dom Perignon Champagne are simply not released. As a rule, Richard Geoffroy does produce no more than six vintages for each decade.
So, there are no bad years for Dom Pérignon.
Between 1921 and 2003, Dom Pérignon champagne has been produced in 39 years. Three vintage years in a row are a rare phenomenon (which has only occurred twice: in 1969, 1970 and 1971; in 1998, 1999 and 2000).
Top recent vintages of Dom Perignon are vintage 2002 and 2000.
According to Tom Stevenson in his World Encyclopedia of Champagne & Sparkling wine, the top historic vintages (rated 3 stars) include 1996, 1995, 1990, 1988, 1985, 1975, and 1969.
What is the world’s most expensive bottle of wine?
No, Dom Perignon is not the most expensive wine in the world. If you’ve watched the video above, you even know that it is not even the most expensive Champagne wine, although many Plenitude cuvee and the rosé do feature within the top 10.