Dom Pérignon has launched a new Plénitude vintage of rosé: P2 1996. Unusually for rosé champagne, it has been given longer ageing in the cellars than the white versions. More usually, for DP at least, it was launched with a degree of theatricality.
Let's look at the latter first. It was called Transformation, and it took the form of a shiny black structure in the middle of South Molton Street in which you could relive the experience of the wine in the cellar: calm, then (more bafflingly) a storm - represented by neon lightning, howling-wind sound effects and spotlights in darkness. It resembled, as Steven Spurrier pointed out, nothing so much as a trip on the Northern Line.
The wine, at least, has very little in common with the London Underground. The 1996, says chef de cave Richard Geoffroy, was 'defined by the winds' – north-east winds that blew for two to three weeks during the harvest, dehydrating and concentrating the berries. Cold nights meant high acidity; the phenolics and tannins were not perfectly ripe, and Geoffroy says that now the grapes would be picked later. It's a wine of red cherry and raspberry fruit, some spice and orange peel notes, some spice, and intense Pinot flavours; good concentration, but the most delicate of the three.
The 1996 was tasted alongside two other rosé vinatges, the 1995 and 1993. The 1995 is winey, more fruit-driven, broader and creamier, with notes of herbs and orange peel and coffee. It was a year of 'not perfect ripeness', says Geoffroy. 'Nice, but not perfect'.
The 1993 is the smokiest of the three; full, powerful and incisive. Still taut and youthful, Geoffroy describes it as 'an intermediate vintage' in terms of quality. There's a touch of toast there, and a touch of nuts. All three have around 20% red wine in the blend.