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Dom Pérignon 2000: the art and mystery of P1, P2 and Rosé Champagne

Dom Pérignon 2000, P2, P1 and P1 Rosé and winemaker Vincent Chaperon in London

Dom Pérignon has just launched its P2 2000 Champagne. I tasted it in London alongside two earlier releases with winemaker Vincent Chaperon, but before we get into the tasting notes I owe you a bit of background – unless you know all about the ‘P’ and the plénitudes, in which case you can skip the next paragraph.

Richard Geoffroy, the long-standing chef de cave with whom Vincent Chaperon has worked since 2005, believes that Dom Pérignon matures in cycles, reaching three peaks of maturity that he calls (or the marketing department dubbed) ‘plénitudes’, a pretty much untranslatable term – completeness? maturity? who knows? Dom Pérignon, which is always a vintage and only made in years of good enough quality, is released according to these ‘plénitudes’ or peaks. The first release comes after the Champagne has aged on its lees in the cellars for at least seven years, the second comes after at least 12 years’ ageing and the third is only released when the Champagne has been on its lees in the cellars for at least 20 years. The second and third releases are labelled P2 and P3 respectively, the P standing for the dread word plénitude, but it could easily stand in for peak or Pérignon.

I tasted P2 2000 alongside the original 2000, released in 2008, and Dom Pérignon Rosé 2000, which was released in 2010. The originals are referred to as P1, but not labelled as such. Confused? Don’t blame me. The powers that be at Dom Pérignon (part of the LVMH luxury brands group) like it that way: they like the brand to be surrounded with an aura of mystery. Let’s move on.

The growing season in 2000 was not what the Champenois were hoping for from the millennial year. In a nutshell, it was nail-bitingly changeable and unusually cloudy right through until the end of August when things brightened up. Miraculously (or so it must have seemed) the benign weather continued until end of the harvest, saving the vintage from ignominy. Vincent Chaperon says that later harvests like this always allow them to “maintain a certain freshness”. He talks of “a tension between freshness and richness” and of there being two faces to Dom Pérignon 2000, “like Janus”. He also talks of “soft vegetal and aquatic notes”. Vegetal and aquatic are positive, in case you’re wondering. He says that the soft vegetal notes – emphatically not herbaceous and something they try to get every year – are thiols in the stage before citrus. Here are my tasting notes in the order in which we tasted.

Dom Pérignon (P1) 2000

Released in 2008; disgorged in 2007, so on its lees for seven years and now nearly 10 years in bottle off its lees with a dosage of 7g/l. Blend: 52% Chardonnay, 48% Pinot Noir, slightly more Chardonnay than usual. Nose: biscuity and creamy maturity, but fresh – a leafy freshness (Vincent Chaperon’s “soft vegetal”) with a hint of orange. Palate: dry, fresh, spicy, then creamy and chalky with citrus and mineral notes. Long, precise and textural, quite intense with a coffee and crème brulée note on the finish, which, as the Champagne is exposed to air in the glass, becomes a brioche note.

Dom Pérignon (P1) Rosé 2000

Released in 2010, disgorged in 2009; dosage of 6–7g/l. 55-60% Pinot Noir in total (including 20% red wine), the highest ever. Salmon pink. Nose: ripe, floral red fruit including red apple – very alluring – then soft toasted-biscuit. Palate: peach, rose, red berries then crème patissière and pastry. Billowing but precise, finishing on a long fresh note.

Dom Pérignon P2 2000

Released April 2017, disgorged May 2016, so 16 years on lees and, as it’s the same wine as P1, the same blend of 52% Chardonnay, 48% Pinot Noir, but the dosage for P2 is lower: in this case 3–4g/l. Richer and creamier on the nose than P1 2000. Crème fraiche richness on the palate with cereal and popcorn flavours, immediately followed by an intense freshness with tauter citrus and spice flavours and an oyster-shell mineral complexity. Richer, deeper, more intense and yet more dynamism than P1 (though that’s not to denigrate P1). Very impressive.

Notes on ageing and closures

Vincent Chaperon says the reason for Dom Pérignon’s longevity after it’s released, whether P1 or P2, is that the wine is vinified in a completely reductive, as opposed to oxidative way, using only stainless steel (no oak), so that there is no oxidation after fermentation, just very slow oxygenation during maturation on its lees in bottle. Once poured into the glass, P2 oxidises more slowly than P1. P1 is aged on lees under crown caps. “For 8–10 years, a crown cap is better: it’s more consistent; you know its permeability.” P2 and P3 are aged on lees under cork. “For longer maturation – more than 10 years – cork stoppers preserve the freshness of Dom Pérignon better, but we accept that we’ll have more variability” (from bottle to bottle). To reduce the variability, they taste each bottle when it’s disgorged and reject any that it “too extreme”. Disgorgement is necesarily manual because of the age of the stoppers.

Photographs by Joanna Simon

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