Bruno Paillard, who has long championed the use of disgorgement dates on his own champagnes, and those of the brands in the wider BCC group, has an anecdote he is fond of bringing up to emphasize the importance of post-disgorgement ageing. He feels the more venerable the wine, the longer it needs to recover from the shock of disgorgement. In much the same way as an older person is likely to take longer to recover from a serious operation than a younger one. It makes sense. Champagne is unlikely to perform at its best immediately, post l’Opération — as the cellar hands refer to the process of dégorgement.
Somewhat mischievously, Paillard likes to reference an annual consumer tasting in Paris of the big-name prestige cuvées, where he claims that historically two wines in particular were largely avoided by attendees. The two wines in question were Dom Pérignon Oenothéque, as it was then called and Bollinger RD. The implication being that both these ‘recently disgorged’ wines were still suffering from the shock of disgorgement and didn’t show at all well at that point in their evolution.
Over the years I have not been a fan of the Dom Pérignon Oenothéque wines when they were first released, finding them generally rather harsh and unfriendly. And, when the opportunity occasionally came up to taste them against the original release of the same wine, always preferring that. At one such tasting given for MWs a few years back by Benoït Gouez, then working with Richard Geoffroy before he took over as Chef de cave at Moët, I was one of the very few people in the room voting that way on a show of hands.
It is to their credit that the team under Geoffroy, now led by Vincent Chaperon, recognised this problem with the second release of Dom Pérignon, and they have gradually extended the length of time the wine gets on the cork, post-disgorgement. With the 2002 Dom Pérignon second plenitude release, now simply called P2, tasted a few hours ago today, this post disgorgement rest has now been extended to two years.
While the wine making has generally evolved so that the first releases of DP in the ‘noughties’ have been noticeably more user friendly — softer and more generous — this is the first time I’ve really noticed the difference this extra time makes. When comparing the new 2002 P2 that has had some 15 years lees ageing, plus two years on the final cork, with the original 2002 release that has about a decade of post disgorgement ageing, the step-up intensity, vibrancy and energy shown by the P2 is clear. Chaperon’s assertion that this is a wine still on an upward curve with a long future ahead of it, seems totally reasonable too.