Champagne is somewhere up there with the caviar and Porsche’s of the world. We’ve all heard of it before, some of us even know the exact region in France where it’s created. But very few of us know the history of Champagne and the key figures who have helped make it one of the world’s premier goods. Join me this week as we explore one of the most renowned Champagne brands in the world, Dom Pérignon, and uncover why this pioneering brand is named just that.
Our story takes us back to the 1600’s to a man who worked as the Cellar Master at Benedictine Abbey in a little village called Hautvillers in France, to a time when winemaking was very much open to exploration.
Throughout the middle ages, the majority of wine innovation came from Cistercians and Benedictines, or in simple speak: monks. It was their determination to explore wine and get better at winemaking that has contributed greatly to the very techniques we use today. But there was one man in particular who was so passionate about discovering new methods and improvements to how wine was made that his name goes down in legend. I am of course referring to Benedictine Dom Pérignon.
It would be incorrect for me to say that Dom alone paved the way for the creation of Champagne. This is in fact due to the efforts of hundreds of wine pioneers over the course of nearly four centuries. But what I can say is that Dom Pérignon made the most significant impact to date.
Back in the day wine was only really made from one particular type of grape at a time. It was Dom who discovered the art of blending and how mixing different varieties could create an entirely new flavor and profile. He was also responsible for creating some of the first white wines from black grapes, by understanding a whole new meaning to the grape pressing process. Ever wondered how Pinot Noir ended up in a Champagne bottle? Thanks Dom!
What about corks? Yep, you guessed it. Dom was the first person to realize the value of sealing bottles with something that, well, would actually seal. Using a little oil and some hemp string, the job was complete – allowing sparkling wines to retain their sparkle much longer than the existing process of shoving a piece of wood in the bottle.
See, it was like Dom had a 6th sense for sparkling wines. Not only did he reinvent the fermentation process by understanding grapes would age best when picked in particular seasons, he also figured out methods to allow the grapes to retain their maximum level of natural sugar, thus making tastier wine.
And lastly, during the 1600’s, it was quite common for bottles to explode, as they simply weren’t strong enough. Today, however, you rarely come across Champagne that isn’t in an incredible heavy bottle. All of which is thanks to, you guessed it, Dom Pérignon. No more tears over spilt wine.
Fast forward to 1936, when Moët & Chandon introduced a new bottle of Champagne to the market. Their Marketing Director at the time, Robert-Jean de Vogüé, had an easy leap of faith to take: Name what many now call the most prestigious Champagne brand in the world after our dear Dom Pérignon.
So there you have it my fellow wino’s, next time you’re sipping on some fizz, give a little nod to the man who made it possible. Now you know why one of the most renowned champagne brands in the world dedicated their name to the man who changed Champagne forever.