Back Dom Perignon: a very old vintage served blind, in stereo

Published on 21 September, 2023

By Linden Wilkie, 21 Sep 2023

Dom Perignon is such a standby ‘old faithful’ wine in Hong Kong, it is easy to forget just how great a wine it actually is. Don’t get me wrong, I know that it is. When I sit down to properly taste it, and write down the experience, the note is usually not a short one, nor the score a small one.

But it just so effortlessly accompanies those moments of celebration, those little nudges to the peaks of experiencing something special.



…like a walk up a hillside in Yunan, two and a half thousand metres above sea level, and as many miles from the steamy bustle of Hong Kong, while visiting Ao Yun, the perfect picnic lunch began with….



….or, having finished The Fine Wine Experience Burghound Symposium’s back to back masterclasses, dinners, and paulée Gala Dinner, I somehow seem to float on up to a party-packed Dragon-I, it’s pulsing sounds and lasers, accompanied by….

You get the idea. But here, last week in Hong Kong I was reminded by my friend KC that this fine wine is capable of doing what the best of them do – hold their exquisite balance and personality for decades in the cellar, long after the initial burst of energy has dissipated. Here, I had before me not one but two wines, both clearly into their third plenitude, and clearly too without the aid of late disgorgement’s life support. “You need to tell me what you think of these, give me your score, and guess the vintage for each one”, said KC.



Bottle One
Bright full gold, no mousse; a lovely toffee cream nose, ripe and mature, spice notes, this is open and inviting; the palate is soft and creamy, with a toffee-cream and Cognac note, there is richness and concentration to the fruit, the bubbles have faded from this bottle, giving a lower acid impression, but the wine is very alive, very full, with a 3D shape. It seems like it is from a ripe, grand vintage. 1976?

Bottle Two
Gold in the glass, not as bright as bottle one; the nose is sweet and toasty, with some autolysis character, this is more identifiably DP; the palate is fresher, and more elegant in style than bottle one, with a refreshing bittersweet citrus twist, a lighter, airier feel, with lighter, more DP-style elegance, though not quite the length and power of bottle one. 1973?

The shape of the bottle had been obvious – we knew these were DP. With a sparkle in his eye KC revealed that the first bottle was 1952. Nineteenfiftytwo – the year before Elizabeth II’s coronation. “I was originally going to serve just the one bottle – the other was a back up, but there was a mix up and the sommelier opened it, so…” Lucky us! And this similarly old but contrasting vintage?... 1952. Yes, the second mix up of the night was that KC, thinking he'd pulled out a ’55 as back up, had brought his only other bottle of the ’52. Oh dear!

Both bottles had been, KC explained, about 6-7cms in ullage under their original corks, about right for their age. But here, in addition to trying something truly rare, we had done so in stereo. The bottle variation is a reminder of the old adage that there are no great old wines, only great old bottles. But here we had two great bottles, like twins that had lived entirely different lives. Seeing them together we understood so much more than if we had tried only one.

And that dozen of the 2012 I have cellared – will it be finished by me, my son, someone not yet born… in 2083? Who knows? It’s all possible. I just love the idea that the last two bottles might be drunk together, especially by accident.