Dom Pérignon: Tasting the Stars

Elegant Clarity: Excellent Vintage 2013 and a Rosé 2008

“Come quickly, I am tasting the stars!” So goes the time-honored quote exclaimed by the young Benedictine monk Dom Pierre Pérignon upon first creating the now famous sparkling elixir. The year was 1668 where at the Abbey of Hautvillers, Father Pérignon was on a mission to “make the best wine in the world.” In the eyes of King Louis XIV, he succeeded…at least for the moment. 

Yet, the brand suggests this is “an aim always refined, but never definitively achieved. With every vintage, the ambition to create emotion through harmony is what keeps driving Dom Pérignon forward.” More than 350 years later, the Dom Pérignon Cellar Master Vincent Chaperon and Oenology Heritage Manager and Winemaker Daniel Carvajal-Pérez meet the challenge to ensure that we also taste the stars in every bottle of the famous Champagne.

Daniel Carvajal-Pérez (photo credit – Leif Carlsson)

At a tasting in late spring 2023, Haute Living, San Francisco had the in-person opportunity to discuss the brand’s evolution with Carvajal-Pérez, in California to launch the new cuvée, Dom Pérignon Vintage 2013. On this occasion, once again stars provide an analogy when discussing the “coherence” of the Champagne’s various tasting notes, “…like points in a constellation,” he suggested, “with some that are more central to the illustration.” He chooses further evocative descriptions with care, such as “creamy, caressing, streamlined,” pointing out fresh, green fruity notes such as apple, orange and licorice, plus spicy hints of cardamom as we sip. In his own words, Carvajal-Pérez aims to facilitate innovation and “bring something new to tradition.” 

As a point of differentiation, it’s important to note that while other houses make non-vintage Champagne, Dom Pérignon only makes vintage Champagne. It’s not unusual for this maker to skip a year: for example, 2007 and 2011 did not meet standards and therefore, do not exist.  

Dom Pérignon 2013 Vintage

Specifically, we learn that Dom Pérignon 2013 is 49% Pinot Noir, “which brings structure and acidity,” and 51% Chardonnay, “which delivers the density and volume.” We also hear that “Playing with contradictions and oppositions, making a dialogue between the result and the year, these are foundational concepts at Dom Pérignon.”

After 10 years in the cellar, the new release is receiving international attention, in part due to what some are calling ‘the last pre-climate change vintage.’ While harvests have been creeping up earlier and earlier in recent years due to global warming, 2013 saw a return to a later harvest. A cold and wet winter preceded a gray, rainy spring and then an especially sunny, hot and dry summer — to the benefit of the grapes, a smaller than usual yield. As the vines were about two weeks behind the 10-year average, the late September/early October harvest in 2013 was out of the ordinary.

Nose: “The delicate nose unfolds in swaths of color. The green of eucalyptus, mint and vetiver, the yellow-orange of mirabelle plums, apricot and orange blossom, the brown of pepper, cardamom and licorice sticks, and finally silvery saline and toasty hues.”  

Palate: “The mouthfeel is elegant, expressing luxuriant simplicity and precision. The attack is enveloping and ethereal. The refined and silky foundation becomes more pronounced at the heart. The finish is dominated by a salinity that leaves a deep sensation of consistency.” — Vincent Chaperon, Cellar Master

More broadly, on the matter of climate, Carvajal-Pérez explains that they’ve been ahead of the curve. It’s been exactly 20 years since weather and research first indicated the need for making adjustments to the Champagne process and adaptations continue to ensure the finest quality..

A word to the wise, buy now. The 2013 Dom Pérignon will be good for the next 10 to 20 years, only gaining in complexity in the aging process. The suggested retail price of a bottle is $295.

Dom Pérignon Rosé Vintage 2008

Lovers of rosé are likely aware that since 1959, Dom Pérignon has also produced a rosé version of Pinot Noir grapes, aged in the cellars for no less than 10 years. Released in early 2022, the brightly colored, copper-tinged 2008 vintage featuring a delicate stream of small bubbles has seen nearly 12 years of elaboration.

Marked by overcast days throughout spring and summer, 2008 started off gloomy. In September, a late and miraculous spell of beautiful weather made the vintage a special one. From the start of harvest in mid-September, conditions were perfect and the maturity of the grapes surpassed all expectations.

Nose: “The bouquet bursts forth with raspberries and wild strawberries. Persistent powdery notes of iris and violet immediately meld with the fruit aromas. After breathing, greener nuances arrive, evoking privet, angelica and camphor tree.”  

Palate: “The initial sensations are tactile, full-bodied and silky as they unfold like a caress, gradually becoming bolder. The acidic foundation that is the signature of the vintage weaves into the structure of the pinot noir, vibrating the heart of the wine. The affirmed, persistent finish is redolent of peonies and white pepper.” — Vincent Chaperon, Cellar Master

The suggested retail price of Dom Pérignon Rosé 2008 is $465.

Fun facts: The auction market for “DP” is a lively one. In 2010, a record was set when a Methuselah (6 liters) bottle of 1996 Dom Pérignon Champagne Rosé sold for £35,000 (nearly $45,000 at current exchange rates). The most expensive bottle ever, a Dom Pérignon Rosé 1959, cost $84,700 at a New York auction in 2008.