As part of a limited tour of the United States, Caravajal stopped by San Francisco to pour the new bubbly and talk about his favorite subject.
Dom Pérignon Vintage 2013
I received an email on a Wednesday in late March with a tantalizing offer: Two days later, Dom Pérignon winemaker Daniel Caravajal would be in San Francisco for a mere 24 hours—would I like to sit down with him and taste the just-released vintage 2013?
Do great grapes grow in Champagne, France?
Oh, my, yes.
The team from the storied brand had reserved a private space at the Four Seasons. I was ushered into the assembled tasting alcove, and Caravajal greeted me warmly. I noticed a few bottles of the 2013 buried up their necks in a gilded bucket of ice. This was going to be an utter joy ride.
Some background: Dom Pérignon is only available as a vintage Champagne, which means it’s only produced in what the brand’s team deems to be exceptional years (for example, the 2008 vintage is known for its minerality, and 2012 for its fruit-forward notes). In 2013, the Champagne region experienced the sunniest on record, and it was hot and dry, which was a benefit to the grapes and the growing team—it was a higher-yielding summer.
Early reviews for the 2013 include scores of 95 (Wine Advocate), 96 (Wine Spectator) and 98 (James Suckling), with Suckling calling it long and powerful, sleek, sophisticated and elegant—eminently drinkable upon release and even better in a couple of years. Yes, it’s one for aficionados’ cellars.
During our tasting session, my first impressions of the Vintage 2013 is that it’s medium- to full-bodied; its bright taste offers hints of apricot and jasmine melded with honey notes and whispers of mint. The bottle is one to celebrate roundly, as Dom Pérignon continues to produce vintages that reflect its ever-changing wine-growing region and Mother Nature’s whims.
Caravajal, who is part of the Dom Pérignon winemaking team, builds on the initiatives and creative heritage put into place by Richard Geoffroy and Vincent Chaperon (the current chef de cave). This work also led Caravajal to other areas of investigation like designing innovative gastronomic experiences for the iconic Champagne house.
“Facilitating the transmission of oenological knowledge means facilitating innovation,” says Carvajal, adding his goal is to bring something new to tradition. As we sipped Champagne and enjoyed grilled salmon, the winemaker discussed the latest bottle and the journey of summoning greatness from the land.
Modern Luxury editor Michael McCarthy and Daniel Caravajal
What inspires you as a winemaker?
I'm a curious guy. I love to learn—to understand nature, people and what happens in life. And when you're a winemaker, each year has a lot of surprises. And so you need to constantly renew your knowledge base, from ecology to fermentation.
What excites you about the 2013 vintage?
I like to say that, when you look at all the wines of Dom Pérignon, think of it as a constellation where every single vintage tells you something about us. What excites me about 2013 is that it is one of those vintages that tastes like a classic but also hints at the future.
Please tell me a little about your affinity for the land where these grapes grow.
In my job, you need to have a relationship with nature, but you also have to be technical and a little bit of an artist. I find this both fascinating and challenging—and it helps all of us understand our roles, since we have two days during the whole process of maturation to make a harvesting
decision. We’re tasting grapes throughout the growing process to ensure the perfect time to harvest.
Our magazine teams have so many different skill sets. I’m guessing the same is true for your team, yes?
Oh, yes. I marvel at our viticulture team, for example, and how skilled they are at literally growing the grapes and helping them reach full maturity. And then our people who are literally the world’s best when it comes to fermentation—their passion is yeast. I also credit our team that specializes in blending and formulation, and how the choices they make impact everything. No one has the same palette, so it must make the creative process challenging. We are a tasting group of 11 people, and yes, all with different palates. We have minor disagreements, for sure, but it’s the cellar master’s job to make the ultimate decision. We all have the understanding that there are different flavors, profiles and aromas that go into each vintage. With diversity, you can create harmony. That’s what we do so well.