The idea that acidity determines the ageability of champagne is ‘nonsense’, according to Dom Pérignon’s outgoing chef de cave Richard Geoffroy.
‘So many people are relying on acidity to excess,’ Geoffroy said at the launch of Dom Pérignon’s Vintage 2008 in London. ‘It’s one element, really. We have been managing to balance the low acids out during the blending with bitterness, salinity, minerality.’
He cited the 2003 vintage as a good example of this. ‘The residual acids were through the floor, and we managed to balance that out,’ he explained. ‘There’s obviously that sacrosanct belief that acids make the wine age longer, which is nonsensical. It’s just wrong.
‘You may say that acids condition the ageability, but in the range of champagne pHs, its non-applicable. It’s more about the dry extract and the way the wine is able to buffer the oxidative elements. For this reason, we are now playing and being so much more at ease with low acids, which is very sensible and, I may say, in anticipation of the future [for Dom Pérignon].’
Much of Geoffroy’s recent work at Dom Pérignon has centred on how to maintain freshness and ageability, while also pushing the fruit to the limits of ripeness. Understanding the role of phenolics, minerality and dry extract has enabled [Dom Pérignon] to do so even in hot vintages such as 2003.
His protégé Vincent Chaperon, to whom Geoffroy is handing over the baton at the champagne house, added that the final goal is not acidity, but freshness.
‘The question is how to build the freshness,’ he said. ‘There are certainly many relations – minerality, aromatic purity and brightness, phenolic bitterness… salinity is part of it. Acidity is just one parameter, one element, and in this quest for harmony we understand perfectly that if we overplay acidity, we are not Dom Pérignon.’
Dom Perignon’s chef de caves for 28 years, Richard Geoffroy will step down from the role at the beginning of 2019.