Geoffroy’s next big trip is to New Zealand, home of impressive pinot noirs and sparkling wines. Photo from Cephas Picture Library.

Dom Pérignon chef de cave Richard Geoffroy is a champagne expert who was actually born in the Champagne region of France. In his 24 years crafting the brand’s vintages, he has traveled the globe on a quest for the most unexpected flavors. His most curious pairing discovery to date? How well bubbly goes with the mole negro of Mexico.

The Place that Changed Me

Geoffroy is freshly back from Iceland, Brazil, and China, but an encounter with one place has transformed him more than any other. “My first visits to Japan in the ’90s were a spiritual experience,” he says. “They opened my eyes to a sense of harmony.” He became fascinated with the Japanese attention to the smallest details, especially as he explored Kyoto’s Daitoku-ji Zen temple. While in Japan, he sampled champagne with vegetarian creations in the local shojin-ryori tradition. He drank plenty of sake, as well. “Sake ‘glides down the throat,’ as the Japanese say, in a way that is very similar to champagne.” Since that first trip, he has studied the making of the drink in his free time. One of his most illuminating reads yet: Philip Harper’s The Book of Sake.

Hoshun-in Temple in Daitokuji, dry garden Kagantai

Kyoto’s Daitoku-ji temple may be the fullest expression of Japan’s obsession with detail. Photo by Kim Unerti/Flickr.

My Travel Rituals

“When I’m juggling multiple hemispheres, it helps to keep some things constant,” Geoffroy explains. “For instance, I always keep my watch on French time. It’s my way of remaining sane and grounded to one place.” He proudly identifies as “an Air France guy” and has flown the airline his entire career. “I like that I’m welcomed as if I’m president of who knows what every time I step on. It’s comforting.” He reads nonfiction exclusively, but never while flying. “I don’t work on board either. It’s my time to switch off, to recharge.” There’s one more custom that comforts him abroad. “I bring my Louis Vuitton carry-on bag everywhere. People tease me,” he says with a laugh. “Because sometimes I bring it to the winery with only one document inside.”

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His trusted bag: Louis Vuitton’s Neo Kendall.

Where to Drink Wine

Ironically, the son of Côte des Blancs winegrowers learned the basics of the industry in California. His first job was in the Napa Valley in 1984, where he monitored the quality of Domaine Chandon’s grapes. “Working there taught me to think in more progressive, bold ways but also brought me back to the roots of champagne making.” He still has a soft spot for California—in fact, Hollywood’s Chateau Marmont is one of his favorite places in the world to enjoy a glass of champagne—but another region excites him more right now. “Outside France, I think New Zealand’s South Island is making some of the most interesting sparkling wines today,” Geoffroy says. He’s heading there next to taste how New Zealand’s producers are distinguishing their wines so well from French champagne.

*temp*

Geoffroy is an architecture buff. No structure has impressed him recently more than Beijing’s glass-cubed Opposite House hotel. Photo courtesy of the Opposite House.

This appeared in the November/December 2014 issue.