2010 was a tough year for Champagne. A frigid winter—the lowest in temperature since 1996—battered down on the region. Spring brought little reprieve: it was delayed, and when it did arrive, the weather was dry.
For the Champagne houses of the region, the season was challenging to say the least, with prominent rot. Many chose to forgo the vintage.
As a result, Dom Pérignon is one of the few Champagne houses to declare and release the elusive 2010 vintage.
Dom Pérignon 2010 will be available on September 15. MRSP sits at $188.
How did the prestigious bubbly house produce the vintage?
As the season approached, worry set in. “Over the weekend of September 4 to 5, despite nobody in Champagne yet having any concerns, we had an intuition that we might have to sacrifice part of the harvest in order to save the best parcels and try to make a Dom Pérignon vintage,” describes Chef de Cave Vincent Chaperon.
He was right. Winter was harsh, and spring, late. Summer moved along as normal, but 48 straight hours of diluvian rain started pouring—two months worth of rain in two days.
The perfect storm of heat and water pushed grape maturation to the brink. Botrytis mold set in on the pinot noir plots (a crucial grape to the Champagne process). Champagne houses were forced with the decision of either losing the vintage or harvesting grapes that had not reached ideal maturation.
The Dom Pérignon team chose the latter. They traced through the vineyards, delimiting the maturity and health of the parcels.
Sacrifices were many: botrytis-affected pinot noir grapes couldn’t be used, so producers embarked on hours upon hours of sorting through individuals grapes, meticulously examining and deciding what grapes to keep based on quality. A large portion of the harvest was lost.
Though the pinot harvest was perilous, Dom Pérignon’s parcels of chardonnay were the best in 20 years—rich, concentrated and fully matured without issue. (Pinot noir is a thin-skinned grape, an attribute that makes it more susceptible to botrytis.)
When married together, the two grape varieties are intense and balanced; a dialogue of triumph and troubles.
Dom Pérignon declared a vintage quite literally “saved from the waters.”
On the nose, it’s luminous and bright, with green mango and fresh pineapple. As the Champagne unfolds, it reveals a mist of peony and rainwater with a saline finish.
While Dom Pérignon has weathered the storm, it’s a wait-and-see game for many of the houses. Chardonnay grapes were particularly successful over the year as the grape is less susceptible to botrytis. Champagne Pierre Gimonnet & Fils has 98% Chardonnay parcels and reported to Wine Spectator they only lost 10% of the harvest.
But still, the difficult vintage produced prominent rot. Few 2010 vintages will be declared from Champagne houses, making the Dom Pérignon 2010 an elusive bottle.
(Of note, 2011 was arguably even worse, so few vintages overall will be declared in the coming couple years.)
This isn’t the first time Dom Pérignon has persevered through the trials of nature—most recently in 2004, 2003 and 2008. The latter was a miraculous vintage. Spring brought winter weather, summer brought gloomy spring weather. Not ideal for viticulture.
Despite the obstacles, wine critics praised the bottles the vintage produced, from all houses that released a vintage. “2008 is one of the greatest champagne vintages of my lifetime,” says Tom Stevenson, co-author of the Christie’s World Encyclopedia of Champagne & Sparkling Wine and founder of the Champagne & Sparkling Wine World Championships told the Financial Times when it was released. “So fine and focused, unbelievably long, with great precision, purity and intensity, yet barely perceptible weight.”
At the time, Dom Pérignon’s cave was headed by the effervescent Richard Geoffroy, a lauded presence in the Champagne world. The vintage marked his swan song, with 42-year-old Vincent Chaperon succeeding him. Chaperon worked alongside Geoffroy on the 2008 vintage, a move that may have prepared him for the tumultuous 2010 vintage.
That said, the bottle is a trial-by-fire—an exquisite release sure to be beloved by collectors thanks to its elegant profile, story and fleeting availability.
The bottle is available September 15. Release will be limited.
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