Dom Pérignon’s vintage-only champagne has earned unquestionable prestige and iconic status for its ability to evolve while “resting on the lees”—this lets the champagne develop better textures and flavours, so the next batch of the same vintage is even more intense. These privileged points in time have been dubbed “plenitudes”, and in the case of its P2 2000—the second plenitude of its vintage 2000—can take as long as 16 years to show.
It is certainly a deeper, more complex articulation of the vintage 2000, which was released in 2008. From what I can recall, this more matured showing is achieved without any loss of freshness and the ripe fruit flavours the vintage first displayed. The champagne’s signature creamy mouthfeel is also more pronounced, as are the aromatics.
(Related: Dom Pérignon P2 Party)
That said, some of a great champagne’s finer moments are often the result of clever pairings—that could refer to the company, but more often than not, it is food. Imagine my excitement when a recent opportunity to savour its P2 2000 at Beijing’s Chao Hotel was presented as part of a collaboration with culinary genius Alain Ducasse, and hosted by Dom Pérignon’s chef de cave, the affable Richard Geoffroy.
The experience began with a “private” first taste of the P2 2000 at the hotel’s Art Center, where each guest was allotted a pedestal on which stood a bottle of the wine and a glass. The lights were dimmed, the ambient music poignant but not morose, and for the first five minutes, the moment was intimate.
In contrast, the dinner on the third floor at the Glasshouse that followed proffered a more playful homage to seasonal and local produce, flaunting a more collective appeal. “It’s always a different experience,” says Ducasse, explaining how proper sourcing and respect for the wine’s unique qualities are key.
“The P2 2000 is the second expression of the vintage. It represents a privileged moment, when the wine reaches its peak intensity, energy and vibrancy—intensity and precision make the wine so penetrating,” says Geoffroy.
Ducasse adds, “We remain faithful to our ethos, but at the same time, faithful to what Richard has put into this champagne—its elegance and harmony.” Geoffroy affirms: “Working with local ingredients is also a constraint. And I like this.”
Casting local ingredients in leading roles is a risk for any visiting chef. But the well-paired dishes speak to Ducasse’s ability to adapt. The sea scallops, for example, are not from Japan or France, but China. They are meatier but less of an umami bomb. “They are definitely different from the ones we usually cook with, but they appeal to us,” Ducasse says about his recent discovery of the local giants, served over what appeared to be a version of his classic lettuce cream with freshly shaved Alba white truffle.
The P2 2000 also boasts uniquely adaptable qualities. “There’s one expression of the wine but there are so many facets that food can address,” Geoffroy shares. “The dinner revolves around the wine and offers as many perspectives as possible—to give a third dimension.” Ducasse upholds that while each dish flaunts its own qualities, each also expresses different facets of the wine, and its unique universality.
It is all about harmony, Geoffroy declares, which he expounds is also about the wine’s ability to adjust to the situation. “Many wines are in the power game and I’m not critical at all—I respect that,” he shares. “I’m only saying that Dom Pérignon is about harmony—and that’s more intense than power. Power is rigid and rigid breaks; Dom Pérignon’s harmony is flexible and adaptable.” It is a remarkable feat since only two varietals—pinot noir and chardonnay—were used.
Clearly, Ducasse, Geoffroy and Dom Pérignon champagne share a delectably fruitful relationship. “We’re unique together; we have a lot a fun together,” Ducasse asserts. It is also a perspective Geoffroy upholds. “Alain’s asset is his agility. If there’s playfulness in the making, there’s a good chance there’s playfulness in sampling the experience,” he says about their complementary relationship.
Geoffroy mentions that the wine he is working on now will only be released in around 10 years, and the second plenitude, 15 to 20 years after that. Hence, he reminds us that ripeness is key to a good vintage. In fact, the extreme ripeness of the vintage 2003 harvest, which he describes as “insane and out of balance”, was too much for many but not Dom Pérignon, which saw opportunity in the challenge and eventually declared it a vintage year. “It was the mother of all hot vintages,” he exclaims. “We coped and we played around to redefine harmony.”
This is perhaps one of the great examples of the mastery Geoffroy feels is required to make Dom Pérignon champagne. Science, he eloquently puts, is crucial “but not enough”.
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