Dom Pérignon: The Monk, The Myth, The Legend

We all know that Drake and Future be sippin’ on Dom Pérignon for no reason (see: Diamonds Dancing). Well, do we have some news for you, homies. There are countless reasons to celebrate and sip on Dom Pérignon. Developing winemaking techniques and making Champagne famous are only a few of Drake’s accomplishments. Newsflash, Drake: none of us would have a Future without the past. And our boy Dom Pierre Pérignon has a pretty amazing history.

It’s quite hilarious to think that so many rap gods and goddesses shoutout to Dom Pérignon, since he was actually more into church hymns than sick rhymes. Our main man Dom Pérignon was a Benedictine monk in France during the 17th century. When he turned eighteen, Dom decided he wouldn’t be following his family’s legacy of living a lavish lifestyle with their expansive riches. He instead became a monk, lived at the monastery of Saint Vanne in Champagne, France, and began helping his fellow monks with the revitalization of the run-down Abbey of Hautvillers. The deteriorating abbey used to have a strong source of income thanks to their large garden of, you guessed it, VINES.

hautvillers landscape

Dom Pérignon was one of the main proponents of “you are what you drink.” He insisted that only the greatest grapes be used when creating wines, so he vetoed any individual grapes or vines that were damaged or starting to prune. All of the juices from each individual grape pressing were kept separate from one another, because quality was of the utmost importance in his winemaking methods. To this day, Dommy P is credited with helping increase the overall quality of red wines coming from the Hautvillers vineyard. (Bonus fun fact: He’s also the first person to produce white wines from red grapes.)

One of the biggest fans of Dom Pérignon’s wines at the time was King Louis XIV. King Louie (not to be confused with the orangutan king with really good taste in music) became king at age four, because four-year-old children make really good life choices for themselves and their kingdoms. I’m not sure when he actually had his first glass of Dom’s wine, but he immediately declared it (I can only assume) “the bomb dot com.”

King Louis made a habit of making his habits required by law. Basically, if he liked doing something, he made a law that said everyone else had to do it too. That included making getting up,

going to bed, and everything in between a cultural ritual. If this was true today, you all would be legally obligated to spray tan as much as our current president. Ponder that information however you’d like.

Lucky for Dom, King Louis loved drinking his vin and declared it the best in France. Thenceforth, everyone began drinking Pérignon’s wine and LOVING IT (or at least pretending to). Trés bon for Dom Pérignon, because this resulted in his wine region gaining an amazing reputation for winemaking.

Wait…so Champagne became a nationally renowned wine region for something other than champagne? Yup. Duck and cover, kids, because I’m about to drop a truth bomb: Dom Pérignon did not invent champagne. *Sounds of breaking champagne flutes, bubble carnage and girls across the world shrieking.*

I’m sorry I just altered your life like that with such little warning. Sometimes the truth is sobering.

Dom Pérignon did make the region of Champagne famous for winemaking. That much is true. However, while bringing Champagne to it’s present day notoriety, he was sharing his French red wines with the world, not sparkling wines.

During his years as cellar master, Dom Pérignon didn’t really care about sparkling wines. In fact, he actually tried to avoid it at all costs, as it was considered a fault in winemaking. His focus remained on eliminating flaws in his red wines, and he gave little to no thought regarding champagne making methods. While attempting to perfect his red wines, however, Dom happened upon some discoveries and tricks for dealing with pesky problems that occurred when wines got too bubbly during fermentation.

Dom is credited as one of the first people to suggest using thicker glass on wine bottles that held sparkling wines. This helped to eliminate the dangerous issue of exploding bottles. Because, though exciting, it is best to avoid spontaneously combusting vino if you can. Dom was also one of the first cellar masters to start using wine corks. He secured them to bottlenecks using tightly wound hemp string in order to prevent prematurely popped corks. His hemp string acted as the OG wine cage, aka muselet (you know, the twisted wire that covers your champagne corks so they don’t explode).

Though Dom Pérignon made all of these discoveries during his time at Hautvillers, it wasn’t until much later in the 18th century that the Champagne region of France began to produce the bubbly white wines that act as our celebratory libation of choice today.

The popularity of Champagne wines increased slightly during the 18th century, after it became rumored that bubbles were good for your health. I still like to abide by this “mo’ bubbles, mo’ healthy” logic. Skip to the 19th century when, almost a century after Pérignon perished, Champagne really started to speed up their sparkling wine production.

In 1921, the winery Möet & Chandon produced their first prestige cuvée Champagne. They named it “Dom Pérignon” as a nod to the monk whose impact on the Champagne region was inimitable, to say the least. The naming of this sparkling wine has lead to the common misconception that Dom invented champagne.

While you’re probably feeling slightly embarrassed that your reference to the “champagne creator” has been a lie all these years, there is an upside. Now you can go to your next wine tasting or dinner party and share the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth with your fellow winos. And anytime a rapper references DJ Dommy P, you’ll know plenty of reasons to join in on their toast.

 

Sources: BBC, Duvine, Feelguide

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Bright Cellars

Our staff is full of winos with a passion for vino. With our amazing wine director at the helm, we’ve been schooled on all things wine. We came together to write this article, in hopes of spreading a little wine-ducation with you.

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