When one thinks about the discovery and widely acceptance of the sparkling Champagne, naturally, the name of Dom Perignon comes into mind. He is highly regarded and even idolised by the French wine-loving population for his contribution to the promotion of champagne during a time when there were only still and red wines.
However, digging deep into the Champagne history, it is revealed this may not be entirely true, and the French are making wrongly attributed to Dom. Two versions of the story that negate Dom’s contribution to Champagne invention are briefly described below:
The accidental version
The historical records suggest that the sparkling version of Champagne wine was accidentally discovered in Champagne province, France. At that time, the champagne wine growers began to try innovative techniques to compete with Burgundy wine. However, they were unable to do so because the cold winters in Champagne region caused the wine in the cellars to cease fermentation.
Some of the wine growers observed that in the spring season, the yeast cells awoke again from their sleep, causing them to begin a second fermenting that creates carbon dioxide gas and builds pressure inside the bottle. At first, the bottles were weak and exploded, but the bottles that survived contained the sparkling wine.
A sparkling version of Champagne was introduced to the rich and famous around 1715 by the Duke of Orléans.
The Englishman Version
One of the many different stories that negate monk Dom Pérignon contribution to the invention the Champagne is the English version. This version of the story describes that an Englishman had already produced the sparkling wine before Dom Pérignon tried to eliminate the bubbles in the wine. The bottles would break under the pressure of the second fermentation.
In 1662, an English physician and naturalist Christopher Merrett documented the “méthode champenoise”, or method for making sparkling wine. To give English wines a bubbly feature, Winchcombe-born Merrett described adding sugar to wines in a paper presented to the newly formed Royal Society.
So then, why is Dom Perignon wrongly attributed by the French? One would say that Dom Perignon symbolises luxury and culture. In addition, Dom Pérignon started the production of wines in the Champagne region in 1668. He is the inventor of the second fermentation in the bottle.