The release of the 2005 vintage was announced in the May of 2015. With a good decade of ageing already under its belt the declaration was a standout for a number of reasons.
The yields gathered from the harvest were markedly down on the usual volumes seen for a Dom Pérignon release. With only 50% of the average sized haul making the grade this was the smallest recorded vintage since 1971. Such was the scarcity of the bottles, the 2005 was the ‘current’ vintage for a mere 6 months, being replaced by the 2006 in October. In November the Dom Pérignon website had sold out at source and were no longer offering the 75cl bottles for sale (magnums were still available).
If the small overall volume released was a hint that the weather conditions in 2005 had been challenging, another indication came from the blend which was usually split 50/50 between Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
In the case of the 2005, Chardonnay would account for a record 63% of the blend. With the exception of the 1970 vintage that’s the highest proportion of Chardonnay ever used for a Dom Pérignon.
The release also marked the 4th consecutive vintage of Dom Pérignon in a row – the first time ever in the brand’s history that this had occurred, and a phenomenon that would be extended to an unprecedented 5 releases with the upcoming 2006 vintage. It was also one of the handful of years where the vintages released did not mirror those of the overall Champagne house Moét & Chandon, who moved straight from the 2004 to the 2006.
Critics were now starting to ask the question as to whether a Dom Pérignon vintage still equated to a rare cuvée released in only exceptional years. Throughout its history, a particular decade would see perhaps only 3 to 4 declarations, but in recent times there had been 7 vintages declared out of the last 8 years (since 1998 only the 2001 vintage hadn’t made the grade).
Explaining his motives for persevering to produce a vintage, especially in years that offered up such difficult climatic circumstances, Chef de Cave Richard Geoffroy explained “I come from a medicine background so there’s a sense of bringing things to life. I don’t think regular releases devalues the concept – luxury can’t be artificial. Some houses limit themselves to three vintages a decade but that makes no sense to me, plus they might pick the wrong three. It’s just not practical”.
The weather conditions had been warm throughout the spring and summer, with both heat and drought being on the minds of the winemakers. Such was the intensity of the sun that, at times, the year was described as the hottest in a decade and compared to the famous drought of 1976 (the soil humidity levels in 2005 were even lower than that landmark year).
Conversely, the little rain seen throughout the year had been building with equal intensity and September was cool and wet with the early part of the month seeing torrential downpours. These damp conditions blighted the grapes just when they were getting ready to be picked and rot/botrytis began to set in, particularly affecting the Pinot Noir grapes (hence their lower inclusion in the blend).
A short break in the weather allowed harvest to begin on September 14th for the Chardonnay and the 17th for the Pinot Noir. As the rains returned to the vineyards it was only through drastic grape selection that a wine of vintage standard could be achieved. Richard Geoffroy would describe the 2005 vintage as having “exceptional quality” and being an “iron fist in a velvet glove”
The official tasting note tells us that the nose offers up “intense fruit, more black than red, which then melts into silvery minerality. Notes of praline and coriander compliment the whole”. The palate has “a strong character and a powerful presence” with an almost physical aspect. “It is structured, focused, firm and dense. Its intriguingly spicy, flowery finish remains present in each sip”.
Stepping away from the highly stylised official note, respected Champagne palate Tom Stevenson described it as being “toasty and chocolaty” with “coffee-infused red and black fruit”. My own tasting note also picked up on the toasty and darker characteristics, adding a green-skinned fleshiness to the nose and a streak of lemon to the forefront of the palate.
With Pinot Noir responsible for much of the body and backbone of a Champagne it has been suggested that the reduced amount of the variety in the 2005 blend will prevent it having the weight and structure to age as long as other Dom Pérignon releases. Time will tell, but with only limited volumes available in the first place, it will probably be harder to get hold of as time goes by.
Upon release the bottles were housed in the standard black presentation casing containing the bi-lingual information guide, and topped with the same dark green capsule as the 2004.
Whilst a small number of magnums of the 2005 were released, due to the limited nature of the vintage no special editions or flute packs were issued. Despite the low availability of Pinot Noir grapes, a Rosé edition was released in June 2017, but it is yet to be seen if the overall grape availability will allow for a Vintage or Rosé P2 variant.