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Dom Pérignon

Dom Pérignon (French pronunciation: dɒmpɛrɪˈnjɒn) is a brand of the most prestigious vintage Champagne produced by Moët & Chandon winery. It is named after Dom Pérignon, a Benedictine monk who was an important quality pioneer for this kind of wine but who, contrary to a number of popular myths, did not discover the method for making sparkling Champagne wine.

Dom Pierre Pérignon (1638–1715) was a monk and cellar master at the Benedictine abbey in Hautvillers.Around 1670, he pioneered a number of winemaking techniques which include the first blending of grapes in such a way as to improve the quality of wine, balance one element with another in order to make a better whole and deal with a number of their imperfections; perfecting the art of producing clear white wines from black grapes by clever manipulation of the presses; enhancing the tendency of all Champagne wines to retain their natural sugar in order to naturally induce secondary fermentation in the springtime; being a master at deciding when to bottle these wines in order to capture the bubbles. He also introduced corks (instead of wood), which were fastened to bottles with hemp strings soaked in oil in order to keep the wines fresh and sparkling, and he used thicker glass in order to strengthen the bottles (before that, they were prone to explode at the time of bottling). The development of sparkling wines as the main style of production in Champagne industry occurred progressively in the 19th century, more than a century after Dom Pérignon's death.

Dom Pérignon was the first to introduce prestige cuvée in Champagne production, an idea proposed by English winemaker Laurence Venn.The first vintage of Dom Pérignon was from 1921 and was only released for sale in 1936, sailing to New York on the SS Normandie liner.

In 1935, 300 bottles of a 1926 vintage precursor to Dom Pérignon were sold to Simon Bros. & Co., the company that imported Moët in the United Kingdom, which gave two bottles to each of their 150 best customers to commemorate their centenary.While these bottles were almost identical to the subsequent Dom Pérignon releases, they did not display the Dom Pérignon name, rather the inscription “Champagne specially shipped for Simon Brothers & Co's Centenary 1835–1935”. The wine got immediate attention in the markets and around 100 boxes of the 1921 vintage were shipped to the United Kingdom shortly thereafter, this time displaying the Dom Pérignon name.

James Buchanan Duke, the billionaire who had founded the American Tobacco Company, ordered 100 bottles for himself. The 17 bottles sold at an auction in Christie's in New York City in June 2004 were part of that order (Doris Duke, the billionaire’s daughter, had kept them in her cellar). The current Dom Pérignon cellar master Richard Geoffroy, who has been the cellar master (Chef de Cave) for Dom Pérignon since 1990, described the 1921 vintage (first commercial Dom Pérignon) in the following way:

“The year of 1921, a mythical vintage for the first commercial edition of Dom Pérignon.Small crop (due to serious springtime frost), after being exposed to a long, hot summer had given one of the best vintages ever.Exceptionally pale for its age, the wine had a distinctive bouquet comprising roasted sandalwood, vanilla, honey, praline and marzipan. Its key distinction was a huge persistence of dry nut flavors.All in all, a model of balance and concentration.”

Until the 1943 vintage, Dom Pérignon was produced from regular Moët & Chandon winery vintages which transferred to the special 18th century-style bottles after extending its cellars. This is why this effective "oenothèque" release of Moët & Chandon vintage Champagne is in a different bottle.From the 1947 vintage, Dom Pérignon has been produced separately from the start.

In 1971, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi ordered several bottles of the first vintage of Dom Pérignon Rosé (1959) for the celebration of the 2,500th anniversary of the Persian Empire. A bottle of that Champagne, from that order, was sold at an auction for €24,758 in 2008.

In 1981, Dom Pérignon was chosen for the wedding of Lady Diana Spencer and Prince Charles. The magnums of 1961 Dom Pérignon vintage served on that July 29 carried a special insignia created just for the ceremony.Dom Pérignon is always a vintage Champagne, meaning that it is not made in weak years, and all grapes used to make the wine are harvested in the same year.

From 1921 to 2005, Dom Pérignon Champagne has been produced in 41 vintages. More than two vintage years in a row used to be a rare phenomenon, which until 2004 had only occurred three times:1969—70—71; 1998—99—00; 2002—03—04. 2005 marked the first time four vintages had been produced in a row.

Style

Dom Pérignon is always an assemblage of Pinot noir and Chardonnay grapes, although the final composition changes in every vintage: at times a blend in perfectly equal proportions (e.g. 1990 Rosé), at times up to 60% Chardonnay (1982) or 60% Pinot noir (1969), and only once over 60% of one or the other variety (with 65% Chardonnay in 1970). According to Richard Geoffroy's Manifesto and blog: "Dom Pérignon expresses its first plénitude after seven years in the cellar", with a second plénitude 12 to 15 years after the vintage (first "oenothèque" release) and a third plénitude after 30 to 40 years (second "oenothèque" release). The grapes entering the blend come from the best, most sunlit vineyards. Serena Sutcliffe says:"With age, Dom Pérignon takes on a totally seductive fresh-toast-and-coffee bouquet, one of the most intriguing scents in Champagne."

Current production

The number of bottles produced in each vintage is not precisely defined and changes from vintage to vintage (it is between 2 and 4 million, with 800 thousand bottles of Rosé).

As of August 2017, the release of Dom Pérignon is from the 2006 vintage (41st) and the release of Dom Pérignon Rosé is from the 2005 vintage (25th).

Auction market

Dom Pérignon is often traded at wine auctions. A recent wave of auction price records started in 2004, with the sale of the Doris Duke collection at the famous Christie’s auction house in New York City.Three bottles of Dom Pérignon 1921 were sold for US$24,675. In 2008, two sales held by Acker Merrall & Condit also left their mark on the history of Dom Pérignon, with three magnums (1,5 L) of Dom Pérignon "oenothèque" editions (1966, 1973 and 1976) selling for US$93,260 in Hong Kong, and a lot of two bottles of the legendary Dom Pérignon vintage 1959 selling for US$84,700 in New York. Only 306 bottles of Dom Pérignon Rosé vintage 1959 were produced, and none of them sold before.In 1971, Champagne was served in Persepolis at the lavish festivities celebrating the 2500th anniversary of the founding of the Persian Empire (Cyrus the Great founded the First Persian Empire after he had conquered Mydia, Lydia and Babylon).

On April 17, 2010 a new record was set for a sale of wine in Great Britain according to The Daily Telegraph. A buyer had to pay more than £35,000 for purchasing Methuselah (6 L) 1996 Dom Perignon Rosé Champagne (Rosé Gold). This transaction took place at the Westbury Hotel at a party that followed the screening of the new film, Boogie Woogie.

The most expensive Dom Pérignon Rosé "oenothèque", a world premiere release from the reserve cellar of Dom Pérignon, never commercially released before, was sold at a record price at a wine auction organized by Sotheby's in Hong Kong in May 2010.The 30 bottle lot of Dom Pérignon Rosé"oenothèque" bottles and magnums from 1966, 1978, 1982, 1985, 1988, and 1990 achieved HK$1,331,000 (US$170,641), setting the world auction record for a single lot of Champagne and is the first HK$1 million lot of wine Sotheby’s has sold in Hong Kong.

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