“Come quickly, I am drinking the stars.”
~Dom Pierre Pérignon
Dom Pierre Pérignon, Order of the Saint Benedict (1638- 1715) was born to a clerk of a local judge in the town of Saint-Menehould in the Champagne region of France. Dom Pierre entered the Benedictine Order at the age of 19 at the Abbey of Saint-Vannes in Verdun, France. He transferred to the Abbey of Hautvillers near the town of Épernay in 1668 and stayed there until his death. At the Abbey of Hautvillers, the monks of the order of St. Benedict cultivate the acres of vineyards that extend around the abbey. During this time, the monks also exacted a tithe (a sort of religious tax) of all the other wine pressed in their district.
The wine extracted from the collections of grapes was of all qualities—good, bad, and in-between. Dom Pérignon had the idea to combine the wine produced from the different vineyards together. In doing so, he realized that soil affected grapes’ fragrance depending on what types of plants surrounded the vines. He also discovered that a white wine could be made from the blackest grapes. This meant that the wine could keep and not turn yellow like the wine made with white grapes. It also occurred to him that a piece of cork was a better stopper for a bottle than a flax dipped in oil which was what was previously used.
Bubbles in wine making are a naturally occurring phenomenon. This was often considered a problem or mistake because wine makers did not want oxygen tainting their barrels. Dom Pérignon “discovered” that these bubbles were actually quite good and decided to bottle what we now call Champagne. Although surrounded with controversy about accuracy, he is widely credited with inventing champagne.
The whiteness of the bubbly wine in Champagne grew famous. Champagne became popularly produced but the Champagne of the Abbey of Hautvillers held the highest notoriety. Today, Moët & Chandon has a high quality Champagne named after Dom Pérignon. His devotion to Champagne has made Dom Pérignon’s name synonymous with elegance and I will forever be grateful for his contribution to my favorite drink.
Because of his dedication to the Abbey, Dom Pierre rests in a section of the Abbey reserved for the heads of the monastery.
To come down among this brotherhood
Dwelling for ever underground,
Silent, contemplative, round and sound,
Each one old and brown with mould,
But filled to the lips with the ardour of youth,
With the latent power and love of truth,
And with virtues fervent and manifold.
~Dom Pérignon on what he loved
about his wine cellars