Chef De Caves Richard Geoffroy reveals Champagne Dom Perignon 2004 in London
Affectionately nicknamed ‘the monk’ by industry peers Richard Geoffroy (Chef de Caves at Champagne Dom Perignon for more than two decades) is certainly following in his famous namesake’s footsteps. Although the first prestige cuvee champagne was originally conceived by Louis Roederer for the Tzar of Russia, Moet & Chandon was in fact the first champagne house to successfully commercialise this most rare expression of champagne and its legendary prestige cuvee Dom Perignon has been associated with the pinnacle of champagne since 1936.
Celebrity associations with the likes of James Bond and Karl Lagerfeld and sky-rocketing consumer demand aside, its a tough wine-making legacy to maintain and further develop such a luxury brand in an ever more competitive marketplace… but this is exactly what Richard Geoffroy has done – every vintage of champagne Dom Perignon enjoys fantastic pre-release sales and is cellared as a fine wine – hence the insider nickname.
Just as Dom Pierre Perignon worked tirelessly to identify each vineyard plot’s individual characteristics in order to make the very best possible final champagne for the Sun King Louis XIV back in the seventeenth century, so today Richard Geoffroy has to compete with the past success of this meisterwork each time he releases a new vintage of champagne Dom Perignon. No wonder he feels that each vintage needs to express itself though a powerful multi-media message to the world via music, art and food.
For the launch of the infamous 2003 Dom Perignon vintage Richard created what he called The Dark Revelation Experience. Thanks to the power of social media I soon learnt about Dom Perignon’s Dark Revelation – however the London June 2013 release of Dom Perignon 2004 was my first direct experience of this sumptuous wine and food theatre set piece.
“Dark Revelation is the new tasting ceremony of Dom Pérignon” explains Richard “Creating its own pace and atmosphere, Dark Revelation is a path through the chromatic palette of Dom Pérignon, each color personified in a singular dish to highlight a different facet of the vintage and to provoke a specific reaction in the audience. Dom Pérignon Vintage 2003 was the first Vintage to be discovered by way of Dark Revelation. It is the perfect approach for me to lead our guests in a journey from the surface to the core until we reach the Dark, the essence of Dom Pérignon. From White to Dark, this ritualised tasting offers an unparalleled sensory experience in exclusive events held around the world. Follow me as I introduce you to Dark Revelation”.
The Dark Revelation – Champagne Dom Perignon 2004 – RED stage revealed
Thanks to precarious climactic conditions in Champagne, each vintage is naturally different but the core of Dom Perignon is always about ‘holding the note’ – balancing the beauty of chardonnay (white grape) and pinot noir (black grape) so that tasting Dom Perignon is an immensely pleasurable experience of champagne that always fits and flatters, just like Chanel.
Unfazed by bureaucracy or a crowded luxury market, Richard Geoffroy remains focussed on creating the epitome of yin and yang in champagne, regularly travelling the globe in search of perfect food matches which will help Dom Perignon lovers make the most of all their champagne experiences.
Tasting Stages Dom Perignon 2004 – silver grey, red, dark, yellow, green and white
Silver grey Dashi / Oyster juice While the dashi seems to respond to the wine’s color, its saline flavor leads to an ineffable line where the silvery sea meets the grey sky. Saline and smoky, the wine pierces the horizon, revealing its radiance, as if it had its own source of light.
Red Tomato-juice aspic / Albacore / Sweet orange oil / Fleur de sel Two shades of red represent earth and sea in this dish, which inspires almost childlike joy. The wine dialogues gently with them while casting a slight shadow on the bright colors. Nothing heavy here, just a waking dream in fresh, still-briny air later perfumed by a delicate aroma of citrus.
Grilled crab / Grilled licorice The licorice stick, more than just an accessory, brings out the flavor evoked by the grill marks on the red crab shell, echoing a similar note discreetly present in the wine. This light touch of darkness seems to seek out a citrus note. When the almost-sweet crabmeat makes its entrance, the wine reveals all its precision and its tight, smooth grain.
Dark Chestnut crepe / Prunier Saint James caviar The caviar’s oceanic depth calls to mind the silver-grey opening, but it is denser and darker. The encounter with the melting brown of the buttered and caramelized chestnut is sensual and passionate. The wine might be expected to retract when it comes into contact with the caviar, but instead it responds openly to its unctuous sensuality and participates in this moment of emotion.
￼Duck consommé / Star anise / White pepper Eggplant / Duck jus / White pepper Whether sprinkled on the flavorful, flattering duck broth or the Fengyuan eggplant, the white pepper makes the wine vibrate at high frequency with scintillating flavors. It is followed by the concentrated richness and silky plum color of the eggplant with duck jus. We are now in the heart of darkness, where the wine becomes complex, serious and deep. Dom Pérignon Vintage 2004 reveals itself in all its grandeur.
Yellow Preserved lemon aspic / Balsamic aspic This acidic, bitter, salty interlude, barely tempered by the sweetness of the balsamic jelly, might have been a test, a rite of passage, but the wine reassures us and takes the starring role. Instead of rearing back, it starts dancing…
Corn soufflé We make a soft landing with this bright-yellow dish. The wine forms a smoothly tangy counterpoint, with no aggression, like the silky surface of a sugar-coated almond. In one word: seamless.
Green Sole aiguillettes “au vert” The caress of the sea glides into a welcoming bed of greenery, proudly echoed in the Vintage 2004. When the bracing touch of sorrel comes into play, the wine reacts with sweet notes of anise.
White Almond blancmange / Basil seeds Against a grey-stippled background, the white phase brings out an unexpected, momentary hint of coconut and surprises us by revealing a dramatic side of the wine, just as the surf, carrying foam back toward the sea, discovers the firm mineral substance of the sand. The wine remembers the grey origins of the deep.
Poached pear / Mace Dom Pérignon Vintage 2004 basks in a sensual pleasure that calls to mind a perfect warm brioche with candied fruits. The penetrating flavor of the spice takes on a hint of anise, discreetly awakening a pleasant memory of the licorice stick. Marshmallows / Orange blossom / Jasmine Soft, gentle, warm evanescence.
What a fascinating champagne sensory journey indeed!
After the Dark Revelation 2004 guided sensory experience and a short audience with Richard Geoffroy himself, in the contemplation room media and trade guests were invited to mingle with each other over a final flute of this precious nectar described by Richard as “tactile, dark and chiselled”. Dom Perignon 2004 is certainly a silky smooth champagne with robust acidity and obvious long term aging potential, so its no surprise that this latest vintage enjoyed pre-sales of GBP 1 million within hours of release. Its also worth mentioning that when Richard chose Turkey as the perfect sensory destination to launch the long awaited Dom Perignon 2002 Rose in January 2013, wine sales immediately went ballistic.
For me The Dark Revelation was an absolutely fascinating way to encounter Dom Perignon champagne and I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience. I just wish I could have had a 2nd go round because I was so totally overstimulated the first time round and rather hectic trying to capture the moment for posterity! Now I can’t wait to taste DP 2004 again but this time without all those extra sensory fireworks!