Nothing signifies a celebration quite like Champagne, but sometimes the wine itself is the cause for celebration. That’s certainly the case when it comes to the release of a new plénitude from the venerable house of Dom Pérignon, in this case, P2 2000 — the second plenitude of the 2000 vintage, the dazzling result of 17 years of elaboration.
To mark the occasion, the Champagne house collaborated with world-renowned master chef Alain Ducasse to host a very special dinner in Hong Kong, the latest event in a partnership that stretches back 25 years. We were invited to this once-in-a-lifetime experience at Ducasse’s own Rech at the InterContinental, Hong Kong, where an exclusive crowd was treated to the chef’s special menu, panoramic views of Victoria Harbour and, of course, free-flow Dom Pérignon P2 2000.
As we entered the restaurant, we immediately noticed that it had been transformed into an unrecognisable version of itself — except for the billion-dollar views, naturally. Guests were ushered into a dark room and instructed to stand at his or her own podium facing the harbour. Within moments, our glass was filled with P2 2000 and a bottle placed on our podium. We were allowed to experience the wine on our own, to sniff its aroma and swirl it around our palate, whilst pondering the inimitable skyline before us — all while a dramatic soundtrack swelled to a crescendo, providing a bold start to the evening.
Immediately thereafter, we were seated in the adjacent room at circular tables topped with Lazy Susans, not quite what you’d expect to see at Rech on a normal night. We were given chopsticks along with silverware, making it clear that this wouldn’t be a standard French meal. Indeed, Ducasse integrated local ingredients and culinary traditions when planning the menu, which explains the arrival of dishes such as har gow filled with langoustine and bamboo, crispy suckling pig topped with a truffled sauce, and Cantonese-style fried rice. The meal concluded on a simple note, with a peach dessert featuring a Champagne granite, made with P2 2000, of course.
The first plénitude of the 2000 vintage was released in 2008, and it was not as energetic as one might have expected. The additional maturation time of nine years on the lees has resulted in a Champagne that is vigorous and dense, brimming with energy. Whereas P2 1998 is characterised by a creamy mouthfeel and plush fruit-forward elements, P2 2000 is most notable for its harmonious qualities. It’s complex and bold without being brash, and it’s certainly improved with age. One eagerly awaits the release of P3 2000 in another 8–10 years to see how this surprising wine will have developed.
In addition to chef Ducasse, Dom Pérignon’s chef de cave, Richard Geoffroy, was also on hand for this remarkable event. Given that we were in the presence of two leading experts in the world of fine food and wine, we sat down with them a few hours before the start of the meal to discuss the importance of collaboration, the benefits of experimentation, and the meaning of P2.
RG: I think Dom Pérignon expresses itself on the double axis of time. That is, the succession of the vintages and, within each individual vintage, the succession of the plenitudes. P2 is deeper and beyond; P2 is more — and more is more. There’s the paradoxical combination of the vibrancy with tremendous depth. Often you tend to have one or the other — it’s very paradoxical to be that playful and that deep. In our view, this is essential Dom Pérignon. Harmony is Dom Pérignon, fair enough, but 2000 as a vintage happened to be harmonious. So it’s harmony meets harmony — harmony squared. Double harmony.
AD: I classify Dom Pérignon P2 2000 as universal. Not universal in the common sense, but with universality as a goal. In that sense, my role as a chef is to fine-tune the pairing by working on the temperature, the seasoning, and step by step, touch by touch, we’re leading towards harmony.
RG: I have such an intimate understanding of the wines that I can sense when the wine is really entering a new plenitude. It really comes down to tasting the wine on a very regular basis. There is nothing more important than tasting.
AD: Back to harmony and the goal of reaching it, we will bring our culinary expertise and savoir-faire and adapt it to local produce here in Hong Kong, to deliver this harmonious experience of combining French cuisine and Champagne of a high level.
RG: The name of Alain Ducasse and the name of Dom Pérignon is written somewhere in the stars, but let’s not forget that we are deeply rooted in the land. We rely solely on Mother Nature for everything. We are making the most elaborate, sophisticated thing from the land, so I love the idea in both cases of being deeply rooted to the land and yet, being in Hong Kong today — there’s that stretch. We are not only relying on nature, we are part of nature. It’s beautiful, it’s a miracle.
AD: It’s taught us that there is no limit to our creations, and that’s the beauty of it. Of course, it has lots of constraints and challenges, but it has no limits, this idea of working together. Because of the universality of Dom Pérignon P2 2000 Champagne and our ability to transform local produce through our culinary savoir-faire, we can create something unique for each country. The possibilities are endless.
RG: I believe in the virtue of our collaboration. Experimenting and collaborating makes you able to go further, better than if you were making it individually. There is always a virtue to collaborating with a great talent. It makes you better. If you stop improving, you dry out. If you want to keep breaking through, the virtues of collaboration and experimentation are essential. Good collaborations are like a couple. In anything, you need reciprocity. If there is only one taking from the other, it won’t last too long.
AD: In this collaboration, everything starts with Richard’s expertise and views on the wine. Our goal was to be in the middle between France and Asia, not only with the ingredients, but also the cultural traditions of eating. This was our challenge: Ultimately, reaching an experience that will create memories for each and every one of you.
RG: Universality is very important. To me, “universal” means you could well be produced local. We are very proud of our origins, and we happen to carry the name of the man who is the spiritual father, the founder, of the category. That’s one thing, and yet we have the capacity to be meaningful to the people of the world. Dom Pérignon has a meaning to so many people. So here we are, very far from the home base of Champagne, bringing it to Hong Kong, and in turn, hopefully, bringing that tremendous energy of Hong Kong back to the winery to inspire us, to fuel the making. Then the wine we make goes back to Hong Kong, and it’s a spiral in a way. It’s never linear — life is not linear.