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Saturday, December 01, 2007

Is D.P. what it's cracked up to be?

Astor Wine & Spirits opened their vaunted ‘high-tech war room’ doors to a band of thirsty geeks for a sneak preview of their upcoming wine and food educational series that will occur with regularity as of January ‘08. From our ground floor perspective, it is an insanely pristine, modern and jazzy operation that is complete with all the bells and whistles that would even make an owner of a self-parking Lexus jealous. The high definition flat screen monitors and stainless steel culinary arsenal adorned the audience with a high profile demonstration that evoked images of a Vegas parade starring Emeril Lagasse. I remember thinking ‘damn, if my university lecture halls were of this profile, I probably would have gone to class more often, I might have even showered and groomed myself for the occasion!’
Well this particular occasion was in homage to Pierre Perignon, the ‘spiritual father of Champagne.’ A foreplay presentation formed the backdrop to the tasting, illustrating how this iconic monk was appointed by Louis the fourteenth to create the best wine in the world (at a time when Versailles was mired in acidic, Loire based plonk). While the display was a bit pompous, in its pep rally salesmanship and overtly ‘French-fare’ fashion, it provided the geeks w/ an informative primer for their tasting delight. I happened to enjoy the highlights on winemaker Richard Geoffroy, perhaps the most influential man in global bubbly today. When the talk of critical acclaim was ‘downsized,’ proclaiming that the luxury cuvee’s sense of finesse belied the scores it received from wine writers, it was made abundantly clear that Moet simply didn’t need them (nor care about them) to sell the massive volumes of premium product they crank out each vintage. Oh, in case you are wondering, their production numbers are still highly confidential and even the ‘high-tech war room’ ambience couldn’t seduce the information out of their spokesmen. Que sera!

All cuvees are composed of only Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, as no Pinot Meunier ever sneaks its way into Dom, regardless of the vintage.

Dom Perignon 1999
The base-vintage cuvee spends an average of 7-8 years of aging on the lees. The ’99 was just disgorged on October of 2006. My first taste of this vintage was definitely one of infanticide, but provided an intriguing sneak peak none the less. Visually singular, flaunting an amazingly fine, linear bead of vertical pearls that seemed almost too perfect to be real. The understated straw color acted as a precursor to the subtle character of the wine, as notes of honeyed brioche, buttered citrus, fresh tangerine and grapefruit flavors emerged in the glass. A crystalline and racy Champagne, that is sharply focused and extremely tightly wound, but should become more expansive and generous as it evolves in the cellar. I’d abstain from popping this unevolved vintage for close to five years, 91+ points.

Dom Perignon, “Oenotheque” 1993
This dazzling rendition spends an average of 12-16 years of lees aging, depending upon the vintage, and boy was this ’93 worth the wait! Frothing w/ complexity, evoking aromas of flowers, salted butter, toffee, graphite and lemon curd that were really showcased well in the broader stem (Michel’s comments are apropos as far as consuming bubbly in the big glass). The sensual nose gave way to an extremely bright, mineral infused palate, full of crushed stones and an electric acidity that made the opulently fashioned wine seem completely ethereal. Is it worth the price tag? Probably not, but it is fantastic, 95 points!

Dom Perignon Rose 1996
Perhaps this Champagne is executed in a style that appeals more to people that are interested in drinking wine, with a bit of carbonation (a la Lambrusco). The deep salmon color and spicy yet earthy profile was extremely fascinating and provocative to taste, but it lacked the class that gives Dom its cache. Notes of white pepper, wet slate, dried flowers, iron, tobacco and strawberries are penetrating and idiosyncratic, yet oddly reminded me of a Red Burgundy with fizz. Although it is interesting and complex, I can’t be totally compelled by it for the fore-mentioned reasons, 89 points.

In case I have offended any of you w/ my commentary, remember the words from Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove, "you can't fight in here, this is the war room!"


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