Introducing Dom Perignon Champagne

a bottle of Dom Perignon Champagne

Location: Avenue de Champagne, Épernay

When was Dom Perignon founded? Dom Perignon was founded in 1668.

Who founded Dom Perignon? Eugène Mercier was the first to register the brand name after Dom Pierre Pérignon, a 17-th century Benedictin monk who served as a cellar master at the Abbey of Hautvillers. It was later sold to the French winery Moët & Chandon, which created their first vintage wine in 1921.

The brand is a subsidiary of the Louis Vuitton Moet Hennesy (LVMH) empire, which is owned by France’s wealthiest man, Bernard Arnault.

Winemaking Designation: Négociant-Manipulant

a magnum bottle of Dom Perignon Plenitude 2 (P2) Champagne

Dom Perignon Vineyards

How many vineyards does Dom Perignon have and where are they located?

Moët & Chandon owns roughly 2,900 acres of vineyards near Épernay and 50% of those vineyards are classified as grand cru. The winery uses its own grapes, but also acquires grapes from other growers. They source grapes from 17 different sites and Premier cru vineyards near Hautvillers. 

Growing Practices at Dom Perignon

Are they organic or biodynamic?

Dom Perignon is not organic or biodynamic, but the house has been making changes in recent years to work towards organic certification, such as halting the use of herbicides.  

Any special growing techniques used?

The timing for the picking of the grapes contributes to the richness of Dom Perignon. While many Champagne producers harvest early to secure a supply, the house chooses to wait for better ripening.

Winemaking at Dom Perignon

Who is the winemaker? 

After a 13-year apprenticeship with Dom Perignon’s former Chef de cave Richard Geoffroy, Vincent Chaperon took the role in 2019.

What types of wine making techniques do they use?

Many sparkling winemakers consider a grape’s acid and sugar levels to be the most important factors in determining the age-ability and taste. Dom Perignon, on the other hand, takes on a slightly different approach.

The Champagne House considers the pH level of the fruit they pick to be the most crucial aspect. It takes the top spot, with acidity, sugar, and flavor ranking below.

They use sulfite in the pressing process to kill any indigenous wild yeast. Stainless steel tanks are used exclusively for the primary fermentation of the cuvee. They tend to use two different yeast strains cultured by the House, one for primary fermentation and one for secondary fermentation, which takes place in the bottle.

Using their own strains, they would know how well the yeast will do throughout the fermentation process. This also allows them to effectively control the finished product.

To avoid any issues later in the process, they perform a malolactic fermentation every year and complete the cycle. They add the malolactic culture one month after starting the primary fermentation.

If they need to make any changes, they can do so by blending—it’s the key to many of their best wines.

When there are new 2-month old batches of wines, the Chef de cave will do a taste test. They determine the blending percentages by tasting the individually fermented young Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

As their blending rule, the winery uses around 50% Chardonnay and 50% Pinot Noir. However, they also rely on what the vintage needs and the flavor profile of the season. So, some years, the ratio can be at either 60:40 or 40:60.

They can use three different grapes to make the vintages but blending the two is something they find more enriching. Chardonnay dominates the beginning and the middle of the wine tasting, while Pinot Noir takes up the second half of the middle and the end.

To make sure the wines last for decades, they also pay careful attention to oxidation by exposing them early and protecting them afterwards.

The winery is not overprotective with the must before the yeast, believing that oxidation won’t be terrible at the early stage. It prepares the juice for picking up oxygen later. Then, they would carefully rack and protect with sulfite at critical phases like disgorging.

In terms of aging, Dom Perignon spends at least 7 years on lees in the bottle before the riddling and disgorgement. Then, it will be aged for another 6 months after yeast removal. At this point, it will be ready to hit the market.

The Chef de cave decides which year’s wines are classified as vintage. All of their champagnes are made from wines, which are produced in a single year. They’re typically produced no more than 6 times each decade. So, if the vintage falls short of the Chef de cave’s expectation, it won’t be released to the market that same year.

The Wines at Dom Perignon

Dom Perignon crafts different versions of their vintage champagnes and produces no more than 6 vintages per decade. The house doesn’t use Pinot Meunier, focusing only on blending 50% Chardonnay and 50% Pinot Noir on their Champagne, with each bottle being distinctly unique.

The exact dose for each is not known, although it has most likely dropped in recent years from 8 grams per liter to around 5 grams per liter.

Rosé 1990 – 60% Chardonnay (1982) and 60% Pinot Noir (1969). The champagne is made by separately vinifying red wine and adding it to the sparkling wine before secondary fermentation. It’s aged for at least 7 years, although the bottles can age well for decades if stored properly.

Vintage Rosé – This style is made mainly from Pinot Noir and is available in 26 vintages. It’s aged in the cellars between 12 to 14 years, and has flavors of red fruit and cream with rose floral scents.

Vintage Brut – This wine is made from a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and comes in 44 vintages. They are aged in the cellar for 8 years and offer notes of apple and citrus.

Plenitude 2 – This means the second stage of maturity of the wine. Formerly called Oenotheque, it’s basically the second life of the Dom Perignon and is typically aged at least 15 years. The long aging on the less enhances the complexity and aroma, and may also acquire smoky or spicy notes.

Visit Dom Perignon

Dom Perignon offers private tours with prepaid booking. The tour will take you through the cellars and discover more about their winemaking process.

You can also visit the church where Dom Perignon was buried in the village of Hautvillers. It’s a worthy pilgrimage for champagne lovers given all of his contributions to the legacy of this wine tradition. The lighting isn’t ideal, but below is a photo from when I last visited.

Gravestone of Dom Perignon, namesake of Dom Perignon Champagne