For my latest True Wine Lover, I have decided to showcase the nifty work of Dom Pérignon, a Benedictine monk, oft credited with the discovery of the sparkling wine production technique known today as méthode champenoise.
Dom Pierre Pérignon arrived at the abbey of Hautvilliers in 1668 at the age of 30. He immediately showed a great acumen for winemaking and soon became the maître de chai. Father Pérignon did not exactly invent Champagne, in fact he believed that secondary fermentation (which creates the bubbles that I love), was in actual fact a fault and referred to the resulting wine as "vin de diable". I bet the old, tonsured monk was none too fond of the exploding bottles either - it's always better to have a full head of hair when there are exploding bottles around. Yikes!
It is an Englishman, one Christopher Merrett, who actually holds the distinction of being the first to document the deliberate addition of sugar to wine to precipitate secondary fermentation - when the fizz happens - and then continued to refine the technique. Furthermore, Merrett was a keen metallurgist and is accredited with inventing the thicker glass needed to prevent winemaking's most dangerous occupational hazard.
However, Dom Pérignon did pioneer a number of innovations in the production not only of Champagne, but of still wines also. It is said that he was amongst one of the first advocates of natural and organic winemaking. Pérignon was also a skilled grape grower and was adept at blending small lots of grapes before fermentation.
Moët et Chandon's Dom Pérignon bubbly is certainly not the greatest Champagne; and the supposed Pierre Pérignon quote, "Come quickly, I am drinking the stars!" turns out merely to be an early marketing slogan. But still, you have to raise your glass and toast an old monk whose name, to this day, is synonymous with good times, celebrations and festivities.