A champagne that starts at about Rs 30,000 a bottle is no easy buy for the most of us. Yet, or perhaps this being a contributor to the fact, Dom Pérignon is one of the most coveted champagnes across the world. Here’s a bit of trivia: Ninety-nine bottles of the 1961 vintage were served at Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s wedding in 1981, the vintage being an ode to the latter’s year of birth. Before that, in 1971, the Shah of Iran had ordered the first vintage rosé (made in 1959) to celebrate the 2,500 years of the Persian Empire. A bottle from this collection went on to fetch EUR 24,758 at an auction by Acker Merrall & Condit in New York in 2008.
Most of the wine menus across India today feature different Dom Pérignon vintages priced in the range of Rs 30,000 to Rs 60,000. However, that’s just the starting point. Based on which edition you wish to pour, the price tag can be as high as Rs 1,96,970 a bottle (for the Dom Pérignon 1973 Plenitude P3). So, what makes Moët & Chandon’s Dom Pérignon so expensive?
For starters, the champagne is made only six times every 10 years. And each of these bottles is produced in years when the rain, hours of the sun, temperature, grape maturity, and such promise to create good champagne. The grapes are sourced from as many as 300 different vineyards across France, including many Grand Crus (French for ‘great growth’, it is a regional wine classification that proves that a vineyard has a favourable reputation for producing wine), almost all owned by Moët & Chandon. Each Dom Pérignon is aged a minimum of seven years, and they typically have two more releases of each vintage, first at nine and then at 25 years.
The sparkling wine is made using both red (Pinot Noir) and white (Chardonnay) grapes, the ratio of both ranging between 40 to 60 percent, basis the production of grapes that year. Juice from both kinds is first fermented separately and then blended. During the process of pressing, sulfite is added to remove any wild yeast, and the company’s own yeast is added, one each for the primary and secondary fermentation. Though no official number has been shared by Moët & Chandon, it is estimated that about a million bottles of each vintage are produced.
The history of this bubbly goes back almost 400 years, when a monk, Pierre Pérignon came to serve at the Abbey of Hautvillers and dedicated himself to making the best wine in the world. While he did not create the Dom Pérignon we know today, he was actively involved in cultivating winemaking techniques and aided the Hautvillers vineyard’s growth to twice its original size. His introduction of identifying wines basis their grapes, pairing white and red grapes for one wine, and extracting white wine from red grapes, made his creations a favourite with the then King, Louis XIV. Till date, the manifesto created by Perignon is followed while making the house wines. And the abbey’s 18-century underground caves which stretch over 29 kilometres house the bottles, which are rotated by an 8th twice a day, to ensure no dead yeast cells remain.
The most recent launch in India was that of the Dom Pérignon Plénitude 2 P2 2000. First released in 2008, this a full-bodied, balanced, and sensual champagne. The bouquet opens up on the nose with a warmth of brioche and hay, paired with bergamot orange and russet stone fruit. The palate is greeted with toasted malt and licorice with a hint of bitterness. Grills, steaks, pastas–full meals are ideal to enjoy this vintage. Just like the Plénitude 2, each collection has its own complex, unique notes, and you have to try it to know it. Priced at Rs 60,000 (excluding taxes).
The keen care taken to produce each single bottle is evident, as is the resulting expensive tag. However, the Dom Pérignon is best tried when you’re well acquainted with wines, as it’s a champagne to be understood. Yet, if you simply want to try it for the experience, there’s no reason to wait.