Dom Pérignon Œnothèque 1995 vs. Krug’s Clos du Mesnil 1995

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Without good Champagne, any soirée is incomplete. Yet, the drink does much more than top off a celebration. With one sip, Champagne’s divine sparkle can act as a sensual pleasure that complements a brilliant meal, reveal a promise of excellence actualized, or serve to spank us into remembering how special life is. Champagne is one of the very few things that is somehow able to raise our spirits whether we’re triumphant or troubled, and no where is that more evident that in the great Champagne houses: Dom Pérignon and Krug. With the Dom Pérignon Œnothèque vintage 1995 and the Krug Clos du Mesnil 1995, these two houses once again prove that they set their own standards, occupying the vanguard of innovation and earth-to mouth fulfillment for us to covet and savor.

As early as 1668, Pierre Pérignon set out to revolutionize oenology by not only creating the best wine in the world, but also creating new customs and pleasures. More than three centuries later, Dom Pérignon carries on the young monk’s triple vision with world-renowned aplomb.

Although every vintage of Dom evolves in the cellar over a minimum of seven-years before being disgorged and released, a limited number of bottles are sometimes set aside to begin a second period of aging in order to join Dom Pérignon Œnothèque. The secret of the Œnothèque lies in the additional duration of the wine’s aging on the lees. This extra time lets each vintage to surpass itself and metamorphose, transforming into something that is not quite the same and yet not quite different. It’s an alchemy that winds up as Dom’s ultimate expression of a wine whose style defies time.

 The site is interesting for its exceptional location, as it gives unequalled conditions for the growing and ripening of the chardonnay grape that is planted on a gentle slope facing south east.

Today, the $400 Dom Pérignon Œnothèque 1995 has achieved a new peak of excellence, a second life characterized by its intensity and exceptional complexity. It’s powerful and round with a creamy body, marked by the maturity of the 1995 chardonnays. For a wine produced from grapes grown in a sunny year, however, the vintage has an astonishing minerality and fruity freshness. The full, spicy aromas range from rich and nutty to candied fruit and brioche. The palate is rich with heather honey, red berries, and sweet caramel, and it turns into a lemony finish that seems endless.

Clos du Mesnil is, along with Clos d’Ambonnay, Krug’s premier cuvee. In the Cote des Blancs, at the heart of the small village of Mesnil-sur-Oger, sits a vineyard that is a unique domain of its own in Champagne: 4.61 acres of chardonnay vines that have been growing in an entirely walled and integrated space since 1698. The site is interesting for its exceptional location, as it gives unequalled conditions for the growing and ripening of the chardonnay grape that is planted on a gentle slope facing south east.

Krug purchased this property, which belonged to the Benedictine Monastery of Le Mesnil until 1750, in 1971 in the size and form that have existed since 1698-a scaled stone in the vineyard wall testifies to this date. Unfortunately, when Krug acquired the property, the vines were too old, and there was an urgent need for a full program of replanting. This was accomplished gradually from a progressive plan, plot by plot. It was not until the 1979 vintage that Clos du Mesnil had been restored to its proper standards of single-varietal greatness. In this special place, the Krug is born in small oak casks to enhance its unique original character, making for an individualistic, original Champagne.

It’s also an extremely elegant one, especially the 1995 vintage (which can be found for a minimum of $650). It’s remarkably well balanced with a vivacious, pure flavor and voluptuous texture. Typical of Krug, its color is straw-gold, and its bouquet intensified by the subtlety of chardonnay. Along with mineral, citrus fruit notes, a hint of biscuit, and a vibrant aroma, the wine is characterized by a fresh, crisp vivacity allied to rich nutty and honey notes. If you’re a fanatic for classic exuberance in your bubbly, this will be right up your terroir.

The combination of a long history and the unique landscape of the vineyard, together with Krug’s many refinements, makes it obvious that when the fine, profuse Clos du Mesnil beads begin finessing down your throat, you’re exalting in one of the rarest and most sought after bottled vintages in the world.

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