"Every Year is a Vintage Year"

That’s what Charles Krug Winery in Napa used to print on their cardboard boxes in the 1960s and early 70’s in an effort to communicate to the public that California’s climate was perfect for grape-growing year in, year out – unlike those folks in Europe, where this year might be outstanding but that year just flat-out sucked!

Well it may seem as though Moët & Chandon took that message to heart – either that, or it’s global warming, as Dom Pérignon releases its 2006 vintage – the fifth consecutive vintage release in a row! (2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, and now 2006).

Certainly I do not know everything about Champagne, nor do I claim to, but I cannot recall anyone producing five straight vintages of Champagne before, especially for a tête de cuvée/prestige bottling . . .

In response, at least one produced has charged that the Vintage Champagne Market is “Being Exploited”.

Antoine Malassagne, winemaker at Champagne AR Lenoble said: “A vintage Champagne should be something special with huge character and ageing potential.

“Many houses have released 2003, 2004 and 2005, but I didn’t think the quality was good enough for it – 2003 was a nightmare for us as it was too warm – but perhaps I’ve got a different definition of what vintage Champagne should be.

“I’d rather produce a really good non-vintage wine than a mediocre vintage expression. Some people are doing it to be able to increase the price of the wine and put a show-off label on the bottle. I want to surprise people with my wines.” (article continues)

BFD. Anyone who is anyone who knows anything will know if a “Vintage” bottle of bubbles is worthy soon enough. I wonder how much DP is sold and/or served (1) not in a duty free shop, (2) not in an airline’s first class cabin, and (3) not in a restaurant where someone is trying to impress. They have their target demographic.

If anything, it only lessens their future market for anyone who is anyone who knows anything, because their vintages will mean nothing in the future. In the meantime, I’ll be enjoying my everyday pour, i.e., a nice Taittinger Comtes de Champagne. (I wish…)

There is a “tension,” if you will, between trying to meet market demand, and maintaining the quality of an item – in this case Moët & Chandon’s Cuvée Dom Pérignon – even if it means shortages in the marketplace.

In the FWIW mode:

– The 1920s saw Cuvée Dom Pérignon produced in 1921, 1926, 1928, and 1929 (4).
– In the 1930s¹: 1934 (1).
– In the 1940s: 1943, 1947, 1949 (3).
– In the 1950s: 1952, 1953, 1955, and 1959 (4).
– In the 1960s: 1961, 1962, 1964, 1966, 1969, and 1970 (6).
– In the 1970s: 1971, 1973, 1975, 1976, 1978, and 1980 (6).
– In the 1980s: 1982, 1983, 1985, 1986, 1988, and 1990 (5).
– In the 1990s: 1992, 1993, 1995, 1996, 1998, 1999, and 2000 (7).
– In the 2000s: 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 . . . (5, with four potential years to go).

So the question can already be asked: is Dom Pérignon as good as it’s always been, or is it just coasting along on its reputation?

¹ The worst decade for European wines in the 20th century.