This already started with the packaging. Or rather the packagings: For the Dom Ruinart 2010 came in a solid, foldable cardboard construction. In which, in turn, the real innovation of the house became visible, the new snow-white “skin case”, a jacket made of molded fiber, i.e. recycled paper and cardboard. It nestles around the bottle like a second skin and is intended to replace the traditional gift box. First presented by Ruinart in 2020 for the Blanc de Blancs, it scores points for higher sustainability and a much better carbon footprint. While the shape was quite discreet for the Blanc de Blancs, the box has now taken on the form of a sculpture: Like a chunk of limestone quarried from the rocks of Champagne, it is meant to represent Dom Ruinart’s deep connection to the soils of its origin.
More than just a facelift
In general, the entire appearance of Dom Ruinart has undergone a facelift. The label has been modernized and once again reflects the chalk base with its white, textured paper. The back is now marked with a QR code that leads to a tasting guide moderated by Frédéric Panaïotis. Even the champagne capsule, or more precisely the “plaque de muselet,” has become a lot classier. Above all, however, the Maison finally dares to include the designation “Extra Brut” on the label: Because although the dosage values were traditionally below the Brut limits, one was still afraid for a long time, as in many large houses, to scare away conservative customers. The fact that “Extra Brut” is now being communicated by one of the Grandes Marques is a good sign for Champagne as a whole.
Let’s get to the wine: Dom Ruinart was first presented as a Prestige Cuvée in 1966 with the 1959 vintage. Unusually, this was a Blanc de Blancs, but it was in line with the strategy of the then director Bertrand Mure. He had presented his first Blanc de Blancs in the late 1940s and made Chardonnay the backbone of the house. Unlike Taittinger’s Comtes de Champagne, which is a few years older, Dom Ruinart is completely committed to stainless steel, at least in the modern era: “We hate oxygen, our wines never see wood,” is then also the principle of Chef de cave Frédéric Panaïotis. Accordingly, the fight against oxidation takes place at every stage. From the closed pneumatic presses and aging in inox to the use of nitrogen gas to keep oxygen out. Because freshness and elegance are the be-all and end-all of Ruinart.
“We hate oxygen, our wines never see wood”Frédéric Panaïotis
The new vintage
In 2010, Dom Ruinart pursued this path even more consequently than its predecessors. Since 1998, the company has been working on the closure of the champagne bottles during the second fermentation, the so-called bottle fermentation. In the early days of champagne production, the bottles were traditionally sealed with corks that were pressed tightly against the glass by a metal clip.In the 1970s, cork was increasingly replaced by modern crown corks. The opinion was that this closure allowed less oxygen to pass through, thus accelerating the maturation of the wines less.
At Ruinart, whose top wines were sometimes left on the lees for ten or more years, doubts arose about this theory. Long-term tests were started, which showed that in the first few years the crown cap did indeed have advantages, but that they evened out after about six years. Older wines, on the other hand, were better protected by cork as they aged. With the 2010 vintage, Ruinart drew the conclusion from this and switched back to corks for Dom Ruinart – which involved some effort. Because disgorging now had to be done by hand again and each cork had to be sensory tested.
In any case, Frédéric Panaïotis is enthusiastic about the new method: the wines are more complex and also have more tension. In any case, the innovation meets the basic wines of a cool and rainy vintage in 2010, which turned out to be weak for Pinot Noir, but surprisingly successful for Chardonnay. But even the latter is only true with reservations: The 2010 Dom Ruinart, for example, contains only a good 10 percent Chardonnay from Ruinart’s historic core vineyards in Sillery in the northern Montagnes de Reims. In contrast, the Côte de Blancs (Le-Mesnil-sur-Oger, Avize, Chouilly and Cramant) dominate this time with 90 percent in the blend. The champagne is still discreet on the nose, with aromas of white flat peaches, hazelnuts and biscuit. Good acidity, delicate bitter notes and the fine, lively mousse support a rich, creamy texture (95 points).