Dom ’03: the emperor without his clothes – or at least only partially clad

What happens when global supermodel wines price themselves into the stratosphere, and a poor vintage comes along? Do they skip the vintage? Very rarely. Do they still put out a wine but drop the price? Almost never.

Or do they grit their teeth and hope no-one notices that the emperor is going around starkers?

It’s one of the great conundrums of the wine world. After all, wine is an agricultural product, subject to the vagaries of the seasons. Sometimes nature dishes up a treat; sometimes it serves up re-heated leftovers. It seems reasonable to expect ups and downs. But when prices soar into multiple hundreds of dollars a bottle for a new release, there isn’t a lot of wriggle room.

In recent weeks, quite by chance, I’ve tasted a lot of very expensive newly-released wines, and wondered who is buying all this over-priced booze, apart from Wall Street – and a few mega-wealthy Chinese and Russians?

Dom Perignon is not a wine that has great investment value, unlike a lot of super-priced red wines such as Bordeaux First Growths, and our own Penfolds Grange and Henschke Hill of Grace. The latter also has scarcity on its side.

Dom is special, but it isn’t exactly rare. The production numbers are a jealously guarded secret, but educated guesses are around three to four million bottles, in most vintages. Its cellar potential and investment value are nothing like those of a serious red wine.

The ’03 Dom Perignon, from a record hot summer in Champagne, is a trifle coarse: phenolic and chewy, and its flavour and aroma spectra, sublime in a year like 2002, are pedestrian. I simply cannot imagine the wine ever having value remotely approaching its price.

Unlike the 2002, which is a transcendental drink – one of the best Doms I have ever tasted – the ’03 is a wine for label drinkers. A victory for the bean-counters at LVMH.

See my tasting of the Dom ‘03.

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