August 4, 1693 – Dom Pérignon

August 4, 1693 is the date traditionally ascribed to Brother (Dom) Pérignon’s invention of Champagne, when he is supposed to have said “Come quickly, I am drinking the stars!”. 

The wines of medieval and renaissance Europe tended to be almost universally red, and almost always still.  The in-bottle refermentation that gives “sparkling” wine its ‘fizz’ was a problem for winemakers.  Fermentable sugars were frequently left over when weather began to cool in the fall, particularly with the white grape varietals.  Refermentation would set in with the warm spring weather, converting bottles into literal time bombs.  Corks would pop out and wine would spoil.  Sometimes the whole batch would explode, one pressurized bottle going off in sympathetic detonation with the other.preventing-refermentation-fig1

Pierre Perignon entered the Benedictine Order when he was 19, doing his novitiate at the abbey of Saint-Vannes near Verdun, and transferring to the abbey of Hautvillers in 1668.

August 4, 1693 is the date traditionally ascribed to Brother (Dom) Pérignon’s invention of Champagne, when he is supposed to have said “Come quickly, I am drinking the stars!”.

The story seems to be an 1821 embellishment by one Dom Groussard, in an attempt to increase the prestige of the abbey.  The English scientist and physician Christopher Merret seems to have been the first to add sugars, beginning the refermentation process which resulted in the first carbonated wine.

Dom_Pérignon_découvrant_la_prise_de_mousse

Yet Dom Pérignon most certainly perfected the double fermentation process, and made important contributions to the quality of the abbey’s fine wines.  He was an early advocate of natural process, farming methods we would call “organic”, today.  He strictly avoided the addition of foreign substances, and insisted that all blending take place at the grape stage. Pérignon insisted on “blind” tasting, not wanting to know what vineyard a grape came from prior to selection.

Dom_Pérignon

Pérignon didn’t like white grapes because of their tendency to enter refermentation. He preferred the Pinot Noir, and would aggressively prune vines so that they grew no higher than three feet and produced a smaller crop. The harvest was always in the cool, damp early morning hours, and he took every precaution to avoid bruising or breaking his grapes. Over-ripe and overly large fruit was always thrown out. Pérignon did not allow grapes to be trodden, always preferring the use of multiple presses.Dom Perignon

Dom Pérignon served as the “cellarer” of the Hautvillers abbey until his death in 1715, in a time when the abbey flourished and doubled the size of its vineyards.  In a sign of honor and respect, Dom Pierre Pérignon was buried in a section of the abbey cemetery, historically reserved only for abbots.

Moët et Chandon, which began as Moët et Cie, purchased the vineyards of the Abbey of Hautvillers in 1792. To this day, Moët’s most prestigious cuvée bears the name of Dom Pérignon.

Advertisements

Author: capecodcurmudgeon

I'm not a "Historian". I'm a husband, a father, a son and a grandfather. A history geek and sometimes curmudgeon, who still likes to learn new things. Five years ago, I began writing a daily "Today in History" story, as sort of a self-guided history course.  At some point, I committed to myself to write 365.  The leap year changed that to 366. At this point, I’ve written about 450. I make every effort to get my facts straight, but I'm as good at being wrong as the next guy. I offer these "Today in History" stories, in hopes that you'll enjoy reading them as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them. Thank you for your interest, in the history we all share. Rick Long

One thought on “August 4, 1693 – Dom Pérignon”

  1. I found myself thinking [citation needed] when I read the bit about how European wines are still almost universally red. There are loads of European white wines. I think all wine producing countries make both red and white wines though some produce more of one than another. Germany and Greece are both particularly known for white wines.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s