2005 Dom Perignon - Worthy of Dom?

Dom Perignon 2005 – Worthy of Dom? 

Dom Perignon is one of the most adored champagnes on the planet. We know this. The famous 17th century monk himself, so it’s said, worked out the secret to divine champagne. We know this. We also know that it’s in a super-premium price bracket. This is where the problems start. Dom Perignon is destined only to be made in vintages deemed worthy of this esteemed wine. But when the accountants at Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy, the conglomerate that owns the champagne house, pour over the books each year, you have to wonder whether the question of vintage releases comes into play. Ultimately the business has stakeholders who wish to see a profit; at the same time, they wish to see the brand prosper. Questions begin to be raised.

            This is not the first time that vintage releases of Dom Perignon have been questioned. The self-made doyen of sparkling wines in this country, Tyson Stelzer, has written as much in his annual champagne guide, noting the decisions to release a Dom or sell of the vintage stock. In his book, Tyson rates the last two decades of champagne vintages according to weather, yield, and quality of the wines. He rates 2005 a 5/10, compared to a 10/10 vintage like 2008, 9/10 for 2002 and and 8/10 for 2004. At what point does the release of a Dom Perignon vintage become compromised? Let’s put this in perspective. In the 1950s, there were four vintages of Dom; in the 1960s, five; in the 70s, six; in the 80s, five; in the 90s, seven; and so far in the period 2000-2010, six. The only vintage not declared in the last decade and a half was 2001. This makes the average release of Dom Perignon 5.5 vintages per decade. There is an ever-increasing amount of Dom Perignon on the market, and Dom Perignon have warned, that they'd like to make a release every year.
            On the flipside, the release of 2005 Dom Perignon (2006 is the current release, there will be no 2007, and 2009 releases in June prior to the 2008) is a chance to create a talking point in terms of the evolution of Dom Perignon both as a brand and as a wine. In fact, the five vintages declared in a row from 2002 to 2006 is unique in the history of Dom. Champagne, in general, needs a cool summer. So says Chef de Cave (Cellarmaster) Richard Geoffroy in Stelzer’s 2016-2017 Champagne Guide. Geoffroy has stated that he’d loved to make a Dom Perignon every year, and this I believe is why we had a 2005 on the market and will have a 2009, another warmer year. We can expect the 2009 to be on a similar plane to the 2005, by these accounts. Geoffroy’s viewpoint is also made clear by the release of ‘plénitudes’, which are best explained as various evolutionary stages in the wine’s long development cycle. The updating and greater emphasis on plénitude releases increases the dialogue around the ‘Dom style’, the ageing capacity of the wine, and this can only be a good thing for the brand.

            Perhaps the contest over whether 2005 should have been declared or not is best said by Geoffroy and Dom themselves. In defence of the staff at Dom Perignon, production levels were 50% down on previous vintages for this wine. This is how much they culled the selection to quality only. Geoffroy’s philosophy is that champagne is an individual, and so, every individual expresses its personality differently. The best thing for us as drinkers is that we can drink, think, and endlessly debate the beauty of wines and their individual merits (personalities). Perhaps we should also think of Dom like many other wines – though it is not intended to be – and say that vintages always ought to be declared, and us as drinkers can deride them or praise them. This is the joy of drinking wine.

            How do I rate this wine? Most wine writers who approached this wine did so just before release, or upon release. Since then, as wines do, it has changed. Back in 2015, opinion was divided over the merits of this wine. James Suckling of JamesSuckling.com gave the wine 97, and in his mind, this wine overrode the stupendous 2004 vintage. Highly-esteemed writer Antonio Galloni gave the wine 95, and said that they’d done well to create this level of quality from an up and down vintage. Australia’s Tyson Stelzer said ‘it will always be a lesser Dom’, while also lavishly praising the wine’s qualities. Huon Hooke, also of Australia, thought it a stellar wine and also gave 97 points. British writer Jancis Robinson said ‘it’s unlikely to go down in history as one of the great Dom Ps.’ Her compatriot Matthew Jukes said in 2015 that ‘it’s already drinking well’, a sign that it was not built for a long life. As you can see, debate is divided. So how’s it faring now, and what does this hold for the future?

2005 Dom Perignon, $200+
A reductive, smoky nose of peaches and pears, white stone fruits. Flowers, some barrel notes, and really slick, saline note, that borders on a kind of petrol texture. Some praline-like smoothness to the smell. Crisp, cold toast, and wet white pebbles. These all ring out like a bell. Hints of sunflower as it warms, in time, with nougat. And the taste? Big, brawny wine of complexity and sheer power. The elegance comes with air. Acids are low, and there are long, thick legs on the glass when you swirl. Exotic fruits come through with air also, showing the warmer vintage also. Based on previous reviews of this wine, the couple of years of bottle age seem to have fattened the wine a little, and this is reaching maturity now. It has some slivered almond taste to it too, and even though it’s mostly Pinot Noir in this blend, it evokes a rich Burgundian white. Top wine, and a complex character to understand.

Cheers and have a great week ahead, and I hope if you drink this vintage, or any other, you feel free to share your comments below.

Also, check out this fantastic ad for Dom Perignon P2 by James Bond villain Christopher Waltz: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aeORAcVtlho

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I think I was captured by how essentially natural or organic the whole process of winemaking is. It's farming, it's viticulture, it's weather and soil, and many more things. It's the winemaker. But after all these things, after the cap is unscrewed or the cork popped, I (and you) get to enjoy it. Then we talk about it and learn some more. Which is, I guess, the reason why you're here! Here you'll find stories, links, wine education samples and wine reviews. I am entirely independent and my wine reviews and ratings are based on my own thoughts and opinions. I accept no endorsements for products or good reviews. Enjoy! I can be reached for comments, feedback and questions at dbtaylor01@gmail.com. Good drinking to you! David

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