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Anne Krebiehl blogs from the launch of Dom Pérignon Rosé 2002

Published:  30 January, 2013

The suspension of disbelief - willing ourselves to be credulous is sometimes essential when we want to be entertained. When the entertainment is the launch of the 2002 vintage of Dom Pérignon Rosé in one of London's best small museums, we are easily persuaded to forego reality for a while.

What had started last week in Istanbul as a circus of east-meets-west sensuousness, continued in the same east-west vein in London. Richard Beaumont, senior brand manager for Dom Pérignon in the UK had the splendid idea of presenting this new vintage, "one of the most anticipated vintages ever," according to chef de cave Richard Geoffroy, at Leighton House: the former home and studio of painter, sculptor and Royal Academician Frederic Leighton. Not only did Leighton paint the languid figure of Flaming June which alone would justify a marketing connection to the equally luxurious but ultimately fantastic world of Dom Pérignon; he also paid tribute to Persian art by re-creating an Arab Hall with tiled, dazzling arabesques, complete with water fountain and rosewood fretwork for the windows. (But there was a pang of reality and regret: the tiles are from presently war-torn Damascus.). Nonetheless, entering Leighton House means entering into a beautiful, rarefied and exotic world - a world in tune with the kind of vision projected by Dom Pérignon. "I am so thrilled to reveal the new vintage to you," announced Geoffrey, seated in the Arab Hall, behind the fountain in which silver silhouettes of Dom Pérignon labels floated alongside pink blooms.

Geoffroy, a trained doctor who has been at the helm of LVMH's most emblematic prestige cuvée since 1990, was determined to speak in superlatives. "This is the most intense flavour of Pinot Noir that Dom Pérignon ever had. The ripeness and richness of a vintage translates into volume and intensity. I think there is a spirit of expansion, an underlying structure. That extra length, that extension of flavour, there is something so penetrating, so striking. I spoke of the golden light of September and I hope it reflects in something so crystalline, so luminous." As he spoke, the salmon-pink liquid was poured into large balloon glasses and for a moment the intense aroma filled the room - but it was hard to retrace Geoffroy's description in the wine while also following his musings.

He availed himself of a vague language that carefully avoided any technical detail beyond sketching the 2002 weather: "In the months of July and August ripening was slow. At the end of August it rained. We had mixed feelings at the time. Then we had the golden light of an Indian summer and as a result we achieved unprecedented ripeness in the fruit." Not even 2003 managed to triumph over 2002 in ripeness. "I want to state that we are dedicated to vintage at Dom Pérignon," he continued, "yes, it's all the best grapes from the best vineyards from the best years. But there is more than that. It's a philosophical concept. Making it from a single year remains a challenge. It's about turning the constraint of cool-climate viticulture in one vintage into Dom Pérignon. One has to put oneself right on the edge, you have to risk... being able to achieve the extra-dimension, the extra soul - and there is the energy of the brand. The risk is about waiting, about making the right decision, about remaining cool-headed, about being open-minded."

He revealed after questions that the bottles had been disgorged 15 months ago and that the dosage was between 6-7 g/l "thanks to the low phenolics" and a certain "seamlessness". A question after the production volume of course remained unanswered. The estimate is that there is an annual DP harvest volume of about 5 million bottles - its very ubiquity is its enduring success - but of course DP Rosé is only a tiny fraction of that. Still, to produce such supple richness in any quantity is a feat. All the talk allowed the wine to develop in the glass. In its relative youth, this 2002 is sumptuous and round, very generous and initially dominated by wild strawberry aromas, later some cream with floral overtones, orange peel and brioche. The palate is indeed "expansive" and the brilliance of the colour a real pleasure to look at.

A small repast followed: upstairs in the artist's former studio dining tables were set, red drapes filtered out the daylight and created a soft glow. A mild ceviche of hand-dived scallops followed by gambas on a shellfish bisque showed that the new release can easily match light dishes, whether accentuated by acidity or rich seafood-sweetness. Even the striking dessert of clementine sorbet, baba, candied clementine peel and saffron appealed to the rich Pinot fruit of the wine.

As a grand finale, back in the Arab Hall, Dom Pérignon Oenothèque Rosé 1993 was served. Here I found that length, that chalky minerality, the still tightly-coiled fruit and a pristine purity. The show was over: we now knew of the rounded charms of the Rosé 2002, of its eminent suitability for fine foods, of its probable longevity. We knew nothing of production figures or volumes, nothing of fermentation temperatures and yeast strains. Would such reality have interfered with the marketing message? Should that message be adapted for different audiences? Undoubtedly a lot of dedication and money goes towards making DP and again as much towards marketing - but perhaps the wine could have spoken for itself? Still, it is lovely to be dazzled for a while.

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