As all people wish to do is flaunt social status, now when it happens with a garment or an accessory, it is still bearable, but it truly irks me when it happens to an alimentary product.
There is a problem with luxury products in that they often get overlooked for their intrinsic qualities and the brand names comes to signify their relevance. For example, outside of signifying that the wearer is capable of dropping 5-digit figures on a simple waist belt, the stuff that Gucci (or LV) make is of extremely high quality. It’s not just durable, it’s noticeably well-finished and most often, with sustainability in mind.
As all people wish to do is flaunt social status, now when it happens with a garment or an accessory, it is still bearable, but it truly irks me when it happens to an alimentary product. Leading the list of fine F&B which often, as I would put it, get abused, is the world of champagnes. They are really well-made wines but often get relegated only as celebration pops or birthday and anniversary markers. To me, a champagne is one of the best wines to accompany a wide range of cuisines and yet, alas, it is more often seen being sprayed on a podium or in a nightclub than alongside a good juicy steak or biryani! Recently, we had Nicholas Lane, the chief oenologist from Dom Perignon come visit and I didn’t waste any opportunity in spending as much time as I could hurling a barrage of questions his way, even through his meals!
My reason was simple — I often know which latest EDM video has them featured, or which rapper wrote a song referencing it, but I rarely get to sit across someone who will guide and educate me on the technical aspects of this blend. Sure, when we had a P2 and P3 dinner, which are the higher cuvées from the house, I had received a lot of information about them but the Dom, the ‘regular Dom’ — if there ever can be one — I was always curious to learn more about.
Well, we all know it is only made in certain vintages i.e. in years when all the factors are utterly ideal for it to be produced. In the last 30 years, it’s been made no more than seven times every decade. Each bottle is aged for a minimum of eight years before being disgorged and readied for release.Even at that point, if the wines show potential to age further, they are held back to be realised in the next cycle, another eight years on or so, and that is what makes the Plenitude (P2 and P3) series. The vision at Dom, the thing that they feel distinguishes them from others, is to try and make every bottle of Dom worthy of going that distance in time without losing any of their bottled essence. And then, as if almost in contrast, Dom is about youthful vibrancy: eight years in a bottle and yet its bubbly crisp vivaciousness that pours forth from an uncorked bottle never once gives its age away. When I met Nicholas, it was twice, both times over lunches and coincidentally both were in Japanese restaurants. This particular cuisine from the Far East is rich in Umami and can be a tough one to tame, often being powerful and nuanced at the same time. And this is where Dom impressed. It was an ideal easel to showcase the freshness of the food and yet supportive enough to sit besides soy and wasabi pungency. The rosé, among the darkest in styles mostly because they mix about 20% Pinot Noir red wine with Pinot Noir–Chardonnay white wine to create the blend, was the show-stopper for me—showing resplendent fruit, depth, intensity, and length without comprising freshness or gentleness of texture.
Meeting with Nicholas Lane was truly a cherished moment. Tasting Dom in a technical setting minus the brand equity to distract (even though it is still hard to dissect the two) was certainly a novelty. The overall experience left me happy as I was getting to enjoy a great fine wine in a setting (i.e. besides food) which it truly merited. But a small chill of sadness also ran down my spine as the realisation dawned upon me that the way hotels hike up Dom pricing, I will never be able to try it with both my kidneys still intact.
The monk Dom Perignon didn’t make this champagne but he pioneered a lot of change and evolution in the region which led to a drastic improvement in the quality of the product from the region in general. But since champagne Dom Perignon was released back in the early 20s to the last vintage a few years ago, the vision has been the same —to make a wine that would keep alive the dedication to quality and innovation that the monk became revered and famous for.
The writer is a sommelier