Chef de cave to cultural conductor: Richard Geoffroy talks passion and playfulness
To paraphrase Sinatra, 1996 was a very good year. Wallpaper* was launched, Richard Geoffroy was promoted to chef de cave at Dom Pérignon and, very appropriately, that year produced an extraordinary vintage that, two decades on, is still talked about. ‘Normally, the great wines come from the fine sunny weather. It was the wind that year,’ Geoffroy explains. ‘It drove the dehydration of the grapes and concentrated the juices to produce something baffling, energised, constrained and infinitely youthful.’
On paper, Geoffroy’s credentials are impressive enough – born into a champagne-making family, he is a trained medical doctor and an influential oenologist. In person, he is articulate, smart, jovial, disciplined and passionate about the art of winemaking.
His extraordinary niceness makes it easy to overlook the fact that Geoffroy is an industry powerhouse. He says his relationship with Dom Pérignon is so intimate a line cannot be drawn. ‘We share the same sense of playfulness, completeness, complexity and serenity. Our fundamental core is one of harmony, which is expressed in the tension between winemaking and blending. But we are not flash or ego-driven.’
These are sentiments that apply equally to Geoffroy’s opinion of Wallpaper*. ‘I’ve been a great fan since the first issue. I loved its scope and how it gave me access to a range of design fields that I was interested in.’
In fact, Geoffroy’s love for design has been reflected in his celebrated tenure at Dom Pérignon. The speed-dial on his phone includes Marc Newson and Sir Jony Ive, and he famously persuaded Jeff Koons to create an iridescent champagne bottle-holder inspired by the artist’s Balloon Venus sculpture.
And when we celebrated The Wallpaper* 100, our 2014 list of the design world’s most powerful players, it was Geoffroy who pulled together the dinner we held at Saint-Pierre d’Hautvillers, the Benedictine abbey where Dom Pérignon was once a monk. Geoffroy remembers an evening of pure creative energy. ‘There was a real sense of superlative harmony.’ Which, we like to think, more or less describes the last two decades here at Wallpaper*.
Richard Geoffroy is one of our 20 Game-Changers. Read about the other 19 here
As originally featured in the October 2016 issue of Wallpaper* (W*211)
Photography: Vincent Fournier