Dom Pérignon 1998 Champagne

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Okay, so this is not the most exotic wine of the week I have ever chosen – nor one of the greatest bargains –  but I thought it worth alerting you to the fact that this seems to me to be the best Dom P since at least 1990 and probably long before.

Recently launched, it is already widely available around the world from about $110 in the US, £70 in the UK, and a bargain 86 euros as Vila Viniteca in Barcelona. (The best UK price for single bottles incidentally seems to be £66 plus duty and taxes from Wine Buy the Case of Woking. Wine brokers Fine & Rare are offering six bottles at £335 plus duty and taxes but do check when they will have the wine available for delivery before placing an order.)

Quite unlike the relatively tight, austere 1996 (which should probably be kept and drunk after the 1998), this cuvée is extraordinarily open and ripe already – it hits the palate with such force it is easy to confuse its ripeness with sweetness but then, in Dom P style, it tightens up immensely and finished with great race and refreshing dryness. The nose initially suggests something headily fragrant – lilies perhaps – but then develops in the glassy to be much meatier and denser. But it took a glass 24 hours to develop the tight-knit, bready autolysis that is characteristic of most Dom Pérignon vintages, which suggests to me that this wine, while being super-welcoming, will also have a very long life ahead of it.

I have only tasted one bottle but I can report that this was whistle-clean with none of the cork problems that have dogged some batches of 1995 Dom Pérignon. If the technical team at Moët & Chandon, led by the quite exceptionally able and convincingly passionate oenophile Richard Geoffroy can’t react suitably to this warning light, no-one can and I’m sure they have been testing their more recent corks to death.

I have a horrid feeling that some investors may jump in and try to corner the market in this 1998, the way they did with 1990 (although admittedly 1990 stockpiling was affected by the millennium factor). Let us hope, however, that some of the big retailers indulge us with special offers of 1998 the way they have with every other one towards the end of the year.

If you’re looking for one special bottle of fizz that shouldn’t be too difficult to find, this is it. Moët are always coy about exactly how many million bottles of this de luxe cuvée are made but you can be sure there will not be a shortage of it for a while – and even then they are sure to hold back quite a quantity to release at an even higher price in the Oenothèque range of Epernay-aged champagne.

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