When Chaperon assumed the top post at Dom Perignon in 2019, he had already worked 13 years alongside his predecessor Richard Geoffroy.
Vincent Chaperon comes from the Right Bank of Bordeaux. His grandmother owned a chateau in Pomerol. After studies in Montpellier, he headed to Chile to work for Concha y Toro. Later, Chaperon went back to work in St-Emilion and Sauternes before heading north in 2000 to Champagne where he joined Moët & Chandon – owned, like Dom Perignon, by luxury giant LVMH or Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy. When Chaperon assumed the top post at Dom Perignon in 2019, he had already worked 13 years alongside his predecessor Richard Geoffroy.
Both men were at the launch of the 2008 vintage in Hautvillers Abbey in June 2018. Indeed, there is a commemorative bottle specially dedicated to the handover. This is Dom Perignon Vintage 2008 Legacy Limited Edition.
I have known Richard Geoffroy for more than 30 years. But not his successor. So, on 25 March 2019, I visited Hautvillers Abbey to become better acquainted with Vincent Chaperon, the new person at the helm of Dom Perignon which he first joined in 2005.
The main precepts are harmony, complexity, intensity, minerality, precision.
‘Things are permanently moving and changing. We are constantly making improvements toward a vision, a vision of harmony, an ideal, a kind of philosophy, aesthetics. Harmony is a concept, an idea. You want to reach it but you never reach it. Every year is different. Every year is an invention. We are on a permanent learning curve, getting closer and closer to the aesthetic. The main precepts are harmony, complexity, intensity, minerality, precision. Driving us are the decisions we take every year. The idea of aesthetics is not a recipe. It is a freedom to interpret and re-interpret the context. Every year is an opportunity to learn. We learn to capitalise on it. Everything is charging. Climate is changing. The way we are growing the vine is changing. Fifty years ago, there was no grass in the vineyard. Today, grass is everywhere because we don’t want to use herbicides.’
Reduction and Oxidation
‘The issue is not about reduction or oxidation but extremes. Extremes are bad. The goal is the complexity. To have a bit of reduction because you always have a bit of oxidation which brings a bit of good. The elements are grape, fermentation and maturation. The idea is not to have just one element dominating but to have harmony, to organise diversity, to bring together a coherence.’
‘“What do you want to do, what is your goal?”’ Why did this philosophy become entrenched at Dom Perignon? Because it is from Dom Perignon himself. The myth that he is the “Father of Champagne” is a story that can go on nourishing and inspiring.The link with Dom Perignon is the spirituality. He was working through a vision.’
‘The first thing I was learning in 2005 was the semantics, the words: harmony, intensity, complexity. We know the power of language. The transmission has been so strong with Richard (Geoffroy), the words and the language.’
‘The paradox is respecting the past, to be consistent with the past and inspring and moving. Nothing can help us transmit better the singularity of Dom Perignon than words and the language of the wine. You can learn the technique but up to a certain point, the wine can change.
A single technique cannot be single. It must always be reconsidered within a system.
‘The first quality is to be humble.’