The 1996 Champagne vintage is unusual, exceptional and legendary, it is truly one of the greatest Champagne vintages in the 20th Century. It is regularly compared to the colossal 1928 vintage, however, it still stands apart: no vintage on record has ever recorded an average 10.3% potential alcohol, yet maintaining such high acidity, in the case of 1996, 10 grams a litre total acidity. It is said that to create a great vintage Champagne one needs a relatively neutral base, thereby creating complexity and finesse during the second fermentation and autolysis, yet with such extraordinary ripeness, alcohol and acidity the vintage is arguably too good.The truly great prestige cuvees made seminal wines, yet Dom Perignon and Krug led the pack. Dom Perignon released their 1996 in 2004, after eight years ageing, however, for a vintage of this power most tasting notes reflect that it is only entering its true drinking window now.

Dom Perignon make an exclusive version of their prestige cuvee in the greatest vintages, given another name to distinguish its greatness, Oenothèque which means ‘wine library’, referencing the extraordinary cellaring program it undergoes. The standard Dom Perignon is aged for seven years on its yeast lees, prior to being disgorged (removing from their lees). Dom Perginon ‘standard’ releases around 2 million bottles a year, yet a tiny part of the wine is kept back on its lees for extended ageing and only released when the Chef de Cave (Chief Winemaker) Richard Geoffrey feels the second or third maturity peak is reached. This means that the Oenothèque experiences extended ageing which imparts more complexity, viscosity, balance and intense flavours, altering Dom Perignon’s elegant style into a powerhouse that can improve in bottle for forty years. Oenothèque is so multifaceted and commanding that it can be paired with some meats, while its finish is seemingly everlasting. The Oenothèque receives lower dosage, thereby exhibiting greater fruit purity, expressing the true quality for the terroir and minerality. Richard Geoffrey, along with the leading critics, favour the Oenothèque 1996 to the exceptional Dom Perignon ‘standard’, ‘saying it is a wine ‘truer to the spirit of Dom Perignon…the finish is the absolute truth of wine’.

Dom Perignon 1996 is superb, the Oenothèque better, offering even greater prestige, quality and exclusivity, relatively very little comparison is made. The elegant black bottles and label make a collector’s item, packed in 3x75cl cases. Dom Perignon 1996 already trades at £500 for a case of 3×75 bottles, which makes the incredibly rare Oenothèque look a superb buy for £550. The 1998 Oenothèque will release in the next few weeks at exactly the same price as the 1996 and once current merchant holdings of the 1996 are sold, it will become extremely difficult to source and as one might expect rapidly rise in price. The 93 point scoring Oenothèque 1993 already costs £750 a case of three bottles, the 94 scoring 1985 £1,650, while the equal scoring 1976 costs £3,000. This rare and arguably one of the best champagnes ever should not be missed for drinking or investment!

Dom Pérignon Oenothèque 1996, 3×75 – £550 IB
or £669.47 incl. duty and VAT
Antonio Galloni – 97 points
The 1996 Dom Pérignon Œenothèque offers up layers of pastry, lemon, smoke and toastiness. At first deceptively understated, the wine turns positively explosive and layered on the palate, showing remarkable tension, elegance and power, all wrapped around a seriously intense frame. The balance between fruit and acidity is awesome. This is a marvelous DP Œeno. The Œeno is the same juice as the regular Dom Pérignon, except the Œeno is aged on the cork while the regular DP is aged in crown-sealed bottles. Once disgorged, the Œenos get a slightly lower dosage than is typical for the original release DP. This bottle was disgorged in 2008. 97 points

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