“I’m a Kiwi who found himself in France,” Nicholas Lane says with a smile. But it’s not so much that he ended up there as he did earn his place there. After spending years working at New Zealand’s renowned winery Cloudy Bay Vineyards, Lane made the move to Champagne to work as a winemaker on one very special brand: Dom Pérignon.
Dom is the top of the heap, the cream of the crop. Its name is synonymous with opulence, with craft, with the finest ingredients. It is a legacy that Lane does not take on lightly.
“The guy himself, Dom Pierre Pérignon, had a great vision,” says Lane, seated at a private Dom Pérignon tasting at Tableau Bar Bistro at the Loden Hotel. “That vision and ambition is something we try to carry on today.” Mr. Pérignon is considered to be the father of Champagne, and Lane adds that he “perfected a lot of growing techniques and pressing techniques” that changed the face of the industry. For Lane, who has been with Dom Pérignon for a little over a year, winemaking means carrying on tradition, even in terms of 2018’s exciting upcoming releases.
First there is the Vintage 2009, which lane describes as a “hot vintage,” with a harvest that began on September 12 of that year thanks to perfectly ripe grapes. “We want good ripeness,” explains Lane. “We don’t want it to go too far.” The result here is beautiful, with a nose of nectarine, white peach, and grapefruit zest. “It’s a moving dynamic between Dom Pérignon style and vintage influence,” says Lane. That means a rich palate, full of body yet still elegantly restrained, with a healthy bite.
Next is the remarkable P2 Vintage 2000, the second iteration of the P2 Vintage that launched with 1998. Aged on lees for at least 12 years, P2 represents the second of three plénitudes that the house wants to showcase for its customers. “In terms of winemaking, this is our ambition,” Lane asserts. “This is what we really strive for.” Its warm, rustic aromatics emanate scents of bergamot, orange, brioche, even a bit of hay or straw; to taste it is bitter, deliciously so, with a lasting finish of toasted malt and a complexity that reveals itself over time.
It is also worth mentioning the Rosé Vintage 2005, which was released in 2017 but is also on the winery’s latest roster. Ripe stone fruit hits the nose along with subtle hints of guava, paving the way for a palate with incredible mouthfeel, fruity but not sweet thanks to licorice clues and a bit of blood orange bitterness. “We wanted to take people into the world of pinot noir, its florals, its fruits, and with that comes structure,” Lane says, adding that they are “bringing the worlds of chardonnay and pinot noir together.” Expressively so.
With a maison rich in history comes incredible responsibility. Those up to the challenge of keeping that past alive must have the knowledge, the passion, and quite frankly, the backbone. Lane’s mark on the brand has not yet been made, but sipping wine with him, it seems evident that his is a voice we can trust.