Part 11 of my Dom Pérignon History Series
Renowned wine critic Robert Parker may have started his meteoric rise to fame praising (albeit for Bordeaux) the wines of the year 1982 as ‘superb’, but for the residents of Champagne the year had started off with a bleak outlook of frosty weather which, in turn, led in to a cooler than average springtime. Vines awoke in April and flowering began in June in tandem with warmer weather arriving, which crucially stayed throughout the harvest. Summer was ideal with its unbroken run of sunshine and warmth, and the lack of later damp weather in August saw off the threat of yield loss through disease and swelling/dilution. Grapes were ripe by the start of September, at which point a mere sprinkling of rain appeared giving the vines the final irrigation that they needed to be strong and full, and ready for picking from the 17th. The result was that, not only did they produce gloriously ripe fruit of a uniformly high quality, they also provided an abundance of it. In the end, the yield would turn out to be three times the size of the previous years (admittedly small) harvest.
The vintage wine was characterised with hints of green to its dark golden appearance, notes of lemon, honey and tart almond to the nose, adding pear, green apple and digestive biscuit to the palate. The wines were described by Moét winemaker Dominique Foulon as being “elegant with a firm finish”. Like the 1980 vintage before it, the blend leant heavier on the Pinot Noir grapes, and was a 60%/40% Pinot/Chardonnay composition, as opposed to the standard 50%/50% mix.
The 1982 vintage Rosé was evocative of wild strawberries and ripe fruit with light spices, quickly developing into mocha and nutmeg. The finish provided gamey notes much reminiscent of a red wine, and highlighted the well ripened Pinot Noir content. It too was described as elegant on the palate, and the vintage wine was released in early 1988, with the Rosé following in 1991.
Moving on to the year of 1983, this also began with poor weather which Moét would later admit made them initially think that the year would be a write-off. Harsh weather in the winter had not improved by the time spring arrived and conditions remained cold and damp, which once again pushed back on the onset of flowering. In a positive twist of fate conditions quickly picked up and suddenly became as good as they had previously been bad, with flowering finally beginning in late June. Both July and August were warm, giving just enough rain to keep the vines watered and healthy, and once again the Champenois were blessed with a bumper vintage. This one, however, was one step further than the previous years large vintage, and the Champenois were greeted with the largest yield ever recorded (at that time). Cooler weather at the start of September and some last minute heavy rain had slightly delayed harvest, which commenced later than usual on the 26th of September. Due to the overall size of the crop, picking carried on well in to October.
The resulting wines were golden in colour, with traces of green. The nose evoked toasty and nutty flavours along with some vanilla, which then gave way to the characteristic traits of brioche and honey. The wine, nicely plump on the palate with good acidity driving through it in to a long fresh finish, was characterised by dried fruit.
The vintage was released at the beginning of 1990 and, as if to usher in the new decade, the release of the 1983 saw several packaging amendments. For the first time, the outer box made reference to the specific vintage contained within on both the lid and the ends of the package. There were also changes inside the box, with the neck brace that supported the bottle removed, and the generic insert books evolving in to full year-specific tasting guides. Although still written in French, you were now able to read about the weather conditions of the year, hear Moét’s thoughts about the harvest, and glean information as to what the wine should taste like. The vintage 1983 book made mention of the wine being comprised of 58% Chardonnay and 42% Pinot Noir, and that you can clearly discern what each variety brings to the palate. It also suggests drinking the wine as an aperitif, being that it will harmonise well with delicate foods and lunches!
Finally, there was one tiny change to the bottle packaging itself, although it was such a small amendment it would easily have gone unnoticed. The capsule (the metallic cap placed on top of the cork) edging was updated to include the words ‘Muselet EPARNIX’, and a copyright symbol, simply indicating that this part of the packaging (the Muselet is the wire cage that surrounds the cork and capsule) also formed part of the trademarked brand property. Two variations, (N° 181 and N° 182, as seen in the below picture), were issued.
No Vintage Rosé for 1983 was declared.
1984 also began with terrible weather conditions, but on this occasion things didn’t improve. Flowering was delayed by a cool and damp spring and, although July saw warmth from the emerging sun, stormy weather arrived in August and remained throughout September. Thus the grapes did not develop fully and retained high acidity. Happily though, another classic vintage was just around the corner.