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Wine Legend: Dom Pérignon 1975

Here's why it makes the Decanter hall of fame...

Dom Pérignon 1975 is a wine legend because…

Roederer’s Cristal was the first prestige cuvée, made for the Russian court. Moët & Chandon was next, with the 1921 vintage of a wine that, when it was released in 1936, was named Dom Pérignon after the 17th-century cellarmaster of the Hautvillers abbey.

Although Dom Pérignon is only released in vintages that are considered outstanding, the 1975 has always been recognised as one of the very finest.

Looking back

Champagne styles can evolve, but even 40 years ago, the taut, lean style of Dom Pérignon was established.

It has always been a roughly equal blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

The principles of vinification were the same as for the regular Moët bottlings, the difference being stricter selection of grapes, and longer ageing on the lees. The bottle is based on one created in 1735, but its current prestige is linked to the marketing power of owner LVMH, the luxury goods group created in 1987.

The 1975, made under chef de cave Dominique Foulon, proves that great quality was also attained in preceding decades.

The 1975 Champagne vintage

On paper, 1975 was not an ideal vintage. Spring was cold and budbreak late, though flowering took place in fine conditions. The summer was warmer than usual, with a few August storms.

Harvest began on 29 September and had to be completed fairly rapidly, as the weather soon worsened. A small crop produced wines high in acidity, which gave many 1975 Champagnes the structure for long ageing.

The terroir

Today Dom Pérignon is sourced from 17 grands crus and a single premier cru, Hautvillers, but in 1975 it only drew on Hautvillers and eight grands crus.

The Chardonnay comes from the villages of Avize, Chouilly, Cramant and Mesnil, while the Pinot Noir is from Aÿ, Bouzy, Mailly and Verzenay.

The wine

Almost all Champagne is a blend, and Dom Pérignon is no exception, the chef de cave choosing from the very best lots, dictated both by the quality of the wines available and by the cuvée style. Unlike other prestige Champagne producers, Moët’s chef de cave does not want a super-rich style, but seeks aromatic finesse, a silky texture and a honed elegance. Until 1969, the must would have been fermented in wood, but by 1975 it was all fermented in steel tanks. The style has always placed an emphasis on reduction; that is, protection from oxygen and thus from oxygenation, as the cellarmasters want wines that age well. The final blend spends at least six years on the lees before being disgorged.

The reaction

Retired Decanter columnist Michael Broadbent found the 1975 acidic in 1983.

But 12 years later when he tasted it from a six-litre bottle, wrote: ‘Very fine bubbles; creamy, first reaction glorious, refined, then “a bit tame”, which is rather ungrateful.’

The facts

Bottles produced N/A
Composition 50% Chardonnay, 50% Pinot Noir (subject to vintage variation)
Yield N/A
Alcohol content 12.7%
Release price N/A

Price today

£319 Fine & Rare Marketplace (UK)

$799 Zachys New York (US)

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