The Prince of the Cellars: Richard Geoffroy

June 10 2013 by Bettane + Desseauve

The director of winemaking for Dom Perignon, is a behind the scenes role, but never the less essential. We talk with Richard Geoffroy.

Painting a portrait of the creator of Dom Perignon is not easy.  Like all strong personalities, Richard Geoffroy is multifaceted, constantly changing, endlessly talented and every bit as complex as a perfectly aged bottle of Dom Perignon. The question is, how is he able to make such large quantities of such exceptional Champagne?

Of course, he will not answer this question. He deftly changes the subject and talks of things so interesting that we quickly forget where we started.  That’s the general rule for the Moët-Hennessy empire, no numbers.  Champagne is festive, a dream not a product with no need to talk business.  Geoffroy is 58 years old, born in the Champagne region.  He is Champagne, a brand to himself, an icon of the appellation.

Here are a few highlights of our interview.

Roots. “When you come from the soil, you belong to it.” “I am the son of a grape grower and I have a very natural relationship with the vines, these are my roots.”

Wines. “I have not changed a thing, I’ve simply sought to go further with Dom Perignon.  To dig deeper, to go towards the essence, it is a never-ending quest.” “The idea is to let the vintage breath, to open a dialog between the house style and the characteristics of the vintage. To bring both together in the clearest way possible.” “Technical winemaking is not in Dom Perignon’s tradition, progress is.”

The Team. “My former career as a doctor enabled me to easily explain my ideas to my team.” “Excellence in management is achieved by bringing each person to their highest level. That’s what I spend almost all of my time doing.”

Vision. “Continuity does not exist.  Maintaining the spirit of the wine is more important than reproducing the same one every year.” “The Champagne region needs to relax. There are winemakers that are pushing the boundaries and the region is evolving. Excellent practices are emerging everywhere.”

The Future. “Be ready for some surprises from the vintages of the first decade of 2000. There are ways to surprise by being yourself, without losing your identity along the way.”

We should listen closely to what Richard Geoffroy says, and what he does not say.  We learned that this important man from Champagne is an unusual personality that is ultimately loveable.  Not quite as much as his Dom Perignon, but almost.