Champagne Dom Pérignon Masterclass

Hosted by our Fine Wine Manager Regan McCaffery. He is likely New Zealand’s foremost expert on the wine, having drunk every vintage  produced back to 1964.

On Wednesday evening I presented an wonderful tasting of Dom Pérignon, the world’s most famous Champagne, and one of my personal favorites. It is named after the Benedictine Monk Dom Pierre Pérignon, who produced his famous wines at the Abbey of Hautvillers from 1668 until 1715. Under him the wines of the Abbey flourished, reaching twice the price of any other and being drunk by Louis XIV himself. The Abby and it’s famed vineyards were purchased by Moet & Chandon in 1823 after the revolution and Dom Pérignon is still made from the same sites to this day.

It was the world’s first Prestige Cuvée, the 1921 vintage in its replica 18th Century bottle, was released to huge acclaim in 1936. Dom Pérignon is always a perfect blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in roughly equal proportions, the grapes coming from all 17 Grand Crus in the region, as well as the famed 1er Cru of Hautvillers. When young, it’s hallmarks are a soft citrus creaminess and exquisite balance, it’s almost too easy to drink.

For this Masterclass we looked at three different expressions of Dom Pérignon, starting with the new 2009 against the previous 2006 release. This is the first time ever that they have released a vintage out of order, deciding that the much anticipated 2008 still needed more time resting in the cellars under Epernay. The 2009 comes from quite a warm vintage and is already rich and expressive, a really showy flamboyant Dom. 2006 is a more classic year, despite being a little reticent now it will blossom and impress if you can manage to keep your hands off it for another ten years.

We then moved on to the stunning Dom Perignon Rosé, 2005 v 2004. A different blend entirely, this is around 60% Pinot Noir, with a full 27% of it being Red Pinot added to the blend in 2005!  Again the personality of the vintages showed clearly here; 2005 is beautiful now, incredibly elegant and delicate, the perfect Summer drinking. 2004 was much darker and more brooding, the sort of thing to drink with Lamb or Duck at a stunning dinner. Either way make sure you use a large Pinot Noir glass to see it’s full personality.

We finished with the  rare opportunity to taste two vintages of Dom Pérignon P2, from the 2000 and the 1998 vintages. P2 is a proportion of each vintage of Dom (around 10%) that is held back for extended aging in their cellars of 15-20 years before release. These were formerly known as Dom Pérignon Oenothèque (The library where the older wines are stored).

P2 refers to the second plénitude’ of the wine, a term Dom Pérignon uses to describe when in its lifespan the wine is showing best. The first plenitude would currently be the 2009. All the P2 wines are aged on cork and hand disgorged for a quality check. This provides an opportunity to try a perfectly aged bottle of Dom that is still fresh from being recently disgorged. P2 has much more power and intensity, it’s richer and more harmonious, complex and textured, a real pleasure to drink. Though for me, nothing beats a well stored original release bottle.

 

New Fine Wine Release – Ao Yun

Ao Yun is one of the most fascinating and exciting new wines in the world. It combines classical French winemaking and Tibetan farming, from one of the most incredible sites imaginable in the Northwest corner of China’s Yunnan province. It is produced by Moët Hennessy (Owners of Bordeaux Chateau Cheval Blanc and Chateau d’Yquem) in the foothills of the Himalayas near the legendary Shangri-La. This remote hidden paradise among the Mountains, is a world Unesco protected area in the three rivers region. It is grown on a patchwork of 314 tiny plots, on both sides of the Mekong, spread across four extremely high villages ranging from 2200m to 2600m. This breathtaking mountain terroir has no equivalent anywhere else on Earth, hence the name Ao Yun – ‘flying above the clouds’.

The local Tibetan people have worked this land for centuries, building millions of terraces that now play host to this unique expression of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. Planted in 2002, no one has ever attempted to grow these varieties at this altitude before. The sunshine hours are quite short due to the shadows from the steep valleys, but UV levels and temperature variation from day to night are much higher. Combined with being situated at low latitude, but at such high altitude, means there is a significantly longer ripening period from flower to harvest than in Bordeaux or anywhere else in the World (140-160 days v 100-120). There is also very little rain fall here, which means no mildew or botrytis, allowing everything to be farmed organically.

This is an incredibly difficult undertaking in this location, Moët Hennessy searched the world for four years before finding this special site. The project is led by CEO Jean-Guillaume Prats, who was lured away from his 15 year position as Director of Chateau Cos d’Estournel. He then convinced Cheval Blanc winemaker Maxence Dulou, to bring his wife and two Children to this remote corner of China. To reach there from Shanghai, requires a three hour flight to the Yunnan capital of Kunming, then another hours flight over the Mountain tops to Shangri-La. You then have to endure a five hour drive over a twisting 4500m Mountain pass, to reach the new winery in the tiny village of Adong. Every single part of the operation was painstakingly brought in from France to ensure the highest quality, all the winemaking equipment, Oak barrels, bottles, corks and labels travelling this arduous route. This is a true human adventure in winemaking. A collaboration between Maxence, his Chinese technical team, and 120 Tibetan farming families who practice the viticulture to an extraordinarily high standard. Everything is done by hand working plant by plant, it takes 4 times more man hours in the vineyard here than in Bordeaux.

We were privileged to drink the 2014 Ao Yun at the New Zealand release, exclusively for Glengarry. This is only the second vintage and production is just 34,000 bottles with very little available in China. The blend is 90% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Cabernet Franc, but tastes like no other region. Ao Yun is a sophisticated and graceful wine, with a freshness and purity unlike anything else. Despite being aged in 100% new oak, it is focused and elegant. There is a superb balance between the wild black fruit and Pauillac like graphite, minerality/acidity and the sweet polished tannin structure. Ao Yun offers something truly unique to the world of Fine Wine and we are very excited to have an allocation.