Very few people do marketing as well as the Champenois. The Bordelais problem, which is all about the monetisation of wine, is not an issue in Champagne, and the Bordelais could learn a thing or two from this. Many of the Bordelais appear to have forgotten what wine is about: pleasure. They talk of Parker points and of euros per bottle. Very few talk about pleasure, of seduction, of love, of romance. And, as such, more people talk about Bordeaux prices than talk about the juice itself. In Champagne, however, pleasure and romance are still very much alive. It’s clear that it costs money, though this is secondary or indeed not even that. It’s a detail. At the 2004 Dom Perignon launch last week, to which I was kindly invited, no one talked about the price. We all talked about what fun we were having.
And none of my colleagues have asked about the price of Dom Perignon either. Aside from the odd “did you have a good time?” (answer: yes), the question has invariably been: “is it as good as the 2002?”
To answer that question I go first to the 2003, a vintage of Dom Perignon that splits the jury.
I’m one of the jurors that rather likes the 2003, and I first tasted it sat next to a man whose palate and knowledge I rate higher than most: Mr Corky. I wrote about it here. Mr Corky is an MW, and a serious one at that, and one that understands what wine is for. His appraisal of 2003 Dom Perignon struck a note with me: it’s all about the pleasure, and there is an enormous amount of pleasure in 2003 DP. Which is not to say that the 2003 is without technical class. Pour a glass of the 2003 and you can catch the bouquet from about two feet: this is impressive. You can give Dom Perignon “deep analysis” if you like, and it will pass the test, but it’s not really the point.
So back to the 2004. If the 2002 is about muscle and the 2003 about meat, then the 2004 is about delicacy. Lifted elegance. It’s a very pretty ballerina on her toes.
There is delicacy, lift and poise in the 2004. Lacy, as in very expensive silk lace underwear, quite obviously on someone svelte and extremely pretty. Bruno Borie likes to compare his vintages of Ducru-Beaucaillou to ladies; to plagiarise this noble method is apt. So, if 2003 DP is maybe Sophie Dahl then 2004 DP is Kiera Knightly. I like both. Most people would say, I think, that the 2004 is the better wine. And a few might be brave enough to even say that the 2004 is the equal of the 2002, just different. Which would suit the chaps at Moet (indeed it would suit a lot of people) very nicely.
To finish, I put my hand in the air. I have been seduced by some brilliant Champenois marketing. And I love Richard Geoffroy’s (Chef de Cave at Dom Perignon) trippy talk: “there is always some white in the black”. And it’s very hard not to like 2004 Dom Perignon when you’re standing outside the Abbaye St Pierre d’Hautvilliers having your glass topped up by a very pretty lady and you’ve been shipped out to a very nice hotel, etc, etc, etc.
But I did rather like it.
Pleasure: often overlooked these days.