Dom Pérignon; The Man Behind the Name
18th February 2014
For many ‘Dom Pérignon’ is the hallmark for quality. The very fine prestige Champagne of the historic Moet & Chandon house, it is easily one of the most highlighty decorated and recognisable names in champagne, or indeed in the entire wine-world.
But what many may not know is that Dom Pérignon is named after a 17th Century Benedictine monk who was instrumental in the production of wine from the Champagne region. The man was a pioneer of modern wine making methods. His insistence on cool harvesting to keep freshness, the use of only natural (or ‘organic’) materials in the wine making process and his championing of Pinot Noir were all revolutionary. Likewise his vineyard management, favouring smaller more concise bunches and avoiding rotten harvests helped to elevate Champagne as one of the great wine producing regions.
As a monk he was in charge of his Abbey’s cellar, a role which would have demanded his full time attention. The church was a great patron of wine making due to their vast land holdings throughout Europe. His status as a great among the Early Modern wine community was solidified through adverts celebrating his life in the nineteenth century.
Alas, many people have tried to pin more to Dom’s reputation that can be rightly attested to. The great irony of his efforts in Champagne focus on fizz, or rather a lack of it. Many of his wine making methods were in pursuit of stopping the secondary fermentation process through which champagne get its sparkle. At this time in history the carbonisation was seen as a fault, as the strain this put on the glass was far too great. Exploding cellars were all too common as cold winters would ease into warm springs, kick-starting the dormant yeast left within the still wine bottles to begin a reaction generating the now sought after Carbon Dioxide.
The most famous quote connected with the monk after tasting champagne – “come quick, I am drinking the stars!” – cannot therefore be a true reference to his first taste of sparkling champagne. But he still deserves his place among our greatest viticultural ancestors and the incredibly fine Champagne which still bears his name is a fitting tribute to great man of wine, and God.
Glass of Bubbly
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