The Champagne: Dom Pierre Perignon

The champagne: Dom Pierre Perignon was named after a monk. Dom Pierre Perignon was one of the most famous monks from the Medival period. Some wine historians are of the opinion that he invented Champagne on 4 August 1693. However, to another large faction of wine historians,  it is a myth among other myths attributed to him.

They argue that he did not directly invent Champagne but perfected its quality by working on various aspects of the winemaking. They also claim that Champagne was invented by a British scientist, physician, naturalist, and metallurgist Christopher Merrett in 1662 and was known as English sparkling wine. Contrarily, they argue that Dom Perignon was trying to avoid bubbles and referred to the wine with bubbles as devil’s vine or pop-top wine.

Dom Pierre Perignon was one of the eight children born to a clerk of a local judge, born in December 1638 in the town of Sainte-Menehould in the Province of Champagne, France. He joined the Benedictine order at the age of 19.

He initially was placed in Verdun at the Abbey of Saint-Vannes. Subsequently, he moved to Epernay to the Abbey of Hautvillers in 1668. Here he stayed until his death in 1715, working as the cellar master of the Abbey.

During Perignon’s era, the in-bottle re-fermentation was a huge problem for winemakers in the Champagne-making process. Fermentation would sometimes stop before all the sugars were converted to alcohol in the cool Autumn and winter weather.

The wine would turn into a bomb during the warm spring weather. The dormant yeast would begin to ferment again when the temperatures raised. This fermentation would create carbon dioxide, and as the pressure in the bottle increased it would either pop the cork or cause the bottle to explode.  Nearby bottles in the cellar, also under pressure, would also break.

Dom addressed the climate issues by cultivating the Pinot noir grape, which is more Immune to cold; he also made blends of grape varieties in case of an unfavorable year for one of the Grape varieties. He blended wines from different years to protect from climate hazards and thus assuring consistent quality and production.

He also comprehended the influence of the sun and geographic locations on the final quality of the wine. Moreover, he suggested the protection of the wines from the wind. Additionally, he was the one who made white wine from red grapes, which other winemakers had been trying for years.

Why is Dom Pérignon so special? 

Every bottle of Dom Pérignon is made from grapes from one vinatage, and only produced in years with the best conditions.  

Wine, a Sacred Drink

Symbolizing the blood of Christ, wine was considered a sacred drink. As Christianity was at its peak, monks played a significant role in winemaking. The wine was regarded as a sacred drink and was heavily consumed at various religious rituals, leading monks to make wine.

Also read: The Discovery of Sparkling Wine

Winemaking was a spiritual activity for the monks. They did not have to earn money or personal benefits from the wine for themselves or their heirs; they dedicated enough time to develop the best skills and techniques for wine production. Their skills and techniques improved with time.

They constructed stone walls enclosing wines to protect them from predators and wildlife to produce fine quality wine. They classified different lands according to the nature of the soil and classified wines based on their quality.

Overall,  wine was a significant part of the lifestyle of monks. It was the staple of their diet and a remedy to almost every disease. The monasteries got economic benefits too that were spent on monasteries.

The legacy of monks in making and preserving wine is applauded to this day. Without their contributions, wine would be nothing as it is in today’s Europe.

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Want to read more? Try these books!

Dom Perignon Vintage 1998, the Collection I Am Drinking Stars! A History of Champagne

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