Part 14 of my Dom Pérignon History Series
As my Dom Pérignon retrospective reaches the release of the 1992 Vintage, it seemed an appropriate time to step to the side somewhat, in to a place where the 1992 is the current release.
I’m referring to Dom Pérignon Réserve de L’Abbaye (also known as Dom Pérignon Gold, or simply Gold Reserve). This is a stand-alone series of vintage releases for the Japanese market only (also available through Hong Kong fine wine merchant Ginsberg + Chan), and a product that you rarely hear about in the UK/Europe unless you go hunting for information. Consequently, very little is written about it and, where it is talked about, it invariably isn’t written in English.
As alluded to with the use of the term ‘Gold’ (itself based on the fact that the labels and covering foil on the bottle are coloured gold), this brand offshoot is intended as an ultra-deluxe product that has seen extended cellar ageing, and is only available in limited quantities. The vintages are released at circa 20 years of age which puts them on a vague par with the P3 releases (Plenitude, formerly Oenothéque), but I say vague as the 1990 RDLA was released in 2009 whereas the 1990 P3 has only recently hit the shelves. There is also a passing resemblance between the two products as the 1990 P3 also has a gold style label.
Other packaging difference to note on the RDLA is that it has its own distinct capsule atop the cork, the back labels are all in Japanese and, more interestingly, that they also include a ‘Limited Edition’ serial number. Dom Pérignon are well known to be evasive on the subject of how many bottles they produce each year but, do these serial numbers give us some hint towards production runs? As you can see from the below image, the back label for the 1992 is only 5 characters long, ergo a top limit of 100k bottles, however the back label for the 1988 is 6 characters long taking us up to a potential 1 million bottles.
Champagne experts have repeatedly made guesses at the production levels for Dom Pérignon and put it at somewhere around 5 million bottles (based purely on the juices produced from the number of vines they have access to), so allocating anywhere near a million bottles for a niche Japan only product seems a tad much. It’s more than likely that the serial number level has been inflated for the 1988 Vintage, and we’re not much the wiser after all.
The bottle comes packaged in a lovely wooden case, not unlike the style used for the first releases in the Oenothéque series, and comes with a tasting booklet that has the serial number stamped on the back and doubles as a ‘Certificate of Authenticity’. All the bottles in circulation are the standard 75cl bottles, with no magnums or larger formats in production.
It’s unclear as to whether RDLA is the same base blend as regular Dom Pérignon and the bottles are simply partitioned for the Japanese market, or whether it is tailored to the market taste. I did find one review from that rare someone who had tasted both the standard 1992 and the 1992 RDLA and they noted that it seemed sweeter in taste than usual.
The first vintage that I can find reference to is the 1976, which has been followed up by the 1978, 1982, 1985, 1988, 1990 and most recently the 1992. Reflecting the fact that these late releases have spent a serious amount of additional time resting on their yeasts (lees) in the cellars, the prices for the older vintages run from £1200 per bottle, down to circa £800 for the latest two releases.
Noticeably absent are the vintages of 1980 and 1983, and this brings with it some interesting conclusions. It’s understandable that 1980 may have been skipped due to the fact that it was a small harvest and probably sold through at the time (although this didn’t stop the equally small 1978 vintage becoming an RDLA), but 1983 was a huge crop and the largest recorded at that time. Technically this should have meant that it was available, but its absence from the range is probably down to the weather conditions of the year, which were damp at harvest time, and this meant that the large quantity of grapes lacked the structure to age satisfactorily (indeed no Rosé was produced for 1983 either). Interestingly, both the 1980 and 1983 received Oenothéque releases, but the 1978 did not. Perhaps the two lines were sharing allocations?
Overall the RDLA is a curious aside in the Dom Pérignon story, and a product that I hope to taste myself one day, not least as a Dom Pérignon enthusiast, but if only to be able to judge if the blend is in any way different to the standard vintage.