Dom Perignon

Karen Frazier
Champagne wedding toast

Special occasions call for special wines, and Dom Pérignon Champagne is known worldwide as the ultimate special occasion drink. With a history extending back to the early part of the 20th century and a reputation for quality, this vintage Champagne from Moët & Chandon remains a perennial favorite among Champagne lovers. It is only in France where true Champagnes are produced. Labeling laws allow only sparkling wines made using the traditional méthode champenoise in the Champagne region of France to call themselves Champagne. Everything else is sparkling wine.

History of Dom Pérignon

The history of Dom Pérignon is the history of wine, itself. The prestige Champagne is named after a Benedictine monk who began blending wines to improve flavor and made improvements to wine bottles and corks. While many believe Dom Pérignon invented Champagne, he did not. His improvements, however, set the stage for the development of méthode champenoise that occurred in the century after his death.

In the 1920s, an Englishman named Laurence Venn suggested producing a prestige Champagne made only from specific vintages. Since most Champagnes were made from a blend of vintages, the idea for a vintage prestige cuvée was a novel one, and Moët & Chandon developed the 1921 vintage of Dom Pérignon. The company originally shipped the first 150 bottles to an American company, Simon Bros & Co., and the Champagne caught on, becoming the preferred drink of the wealthy very quickly.

The Champagne

Traditional Champagne consists of a blend of vintages, and is given the designation NV (non-vintage). Moët & Chandon pioneered vintage Champagne with Dom Pérignon, using grapes and juice only from a single vintage. The company only produces Dom Pérignon in the best vintages, so Moët & Chandon does not produce its prestige cuvée every year. Thus far, the company has released only 36 vintages, with the most recent occurring in 2002. Other recent vintages include 1990, 1995, 1996, 1998, 2000, and 2002. Moët & Chandon has also produced 21 vintages of rosé Champagne, with the most recent release occurring in 2000. Before releasing the wines, Moët & Chandon ages them for at least seven years.

Grapes

The grape blends for the Champagnes depend on the vintage, and winemakers blend Chardonnay and Pinot Noir to make the wines. While there is no set formula, the winemakers at Moët & Chandon seldom exceed 60 percent of volume from either grape.

Méthode Champenoise

Moët & Chandon makes Dom Pérignon using the traditional méthode champenoise in which the wine undergoes a secondary in-bottle fermentation. Winemakers add liquer de tirage, a combination of yeast and sugar, and then bottle the wines. As they age, the yeast consumes the sugar and leaves resultant carbon dioxide bubbles that give Champagne its customary fizz.

Serving

Dom Pérignon contains graceful bubbles, and the dry Champagne is redolent with flavors of biscuits, citrus, honey, and smoke. Dom Pérignon and other Champagnes shine at a serving temperature of around 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Open the bottle just before you plan to drink it in order to preserve the bubbles, and serve in traditional Champagne flutes that allow the bubbles to rise and carry the wine's fragrance to your nose.

Because of its flavors, Dom Pérignon pairs well with many foods. Some classic pairings include:

  • Strawberries
  • Lobster
  • Crab
  • Caviar
  • Foie gras

Where to Buy

Many specialty wine shops carry Dom Pérignon. Because it isn't made in every vintage and bottling size varies, it may be more difficult to find in some years than others. The Champagne isn't cheap, usually costing around $100 to 150 per bottle or slightly higher for the latest release. You can also find aged vintages of Dom Pérignon on the secondary market at auction websites such as Wine Commune. To locate online retailers, visit Wine Searcher.

If you've got a special occasion coming up and you'd like a consistently good bottle of Champagne, you can't go wrong with Dom Pérignon. With its warm biscuit flavors and delectable bubbles, it will make any occasion a true celebration.

Dom Perignon