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Did Dom Perignon discover Champagne?

Posted : 29-Nov-2017

About Dom Perignon

Dom Perignon (1638-1715) was the French monk accredited with inventing Champagne. In 1668, when he was 30 years old, he arrived at the abbey in Hautvillers to take up his position as “procurer” and “cellarmaster”. Under his masterful organisation of the finances the abbey prospered. It was said that Dom Perignon was blind, a myth that began long after he died. This myth was not proven in the reading of any historical documents found at the abbey however blindness was mentioned in a letter written by Dom Grossart who was born several decades after Perignon’s death, so one could ask how would he have known. Supporting the claim that he was not blind is evidenced in the fact that in order for him to complete his studies in

Hebrew, Greek, and the scriptures he would have needed to be able to read; Braille had not yet been discovered. In any case it just may be possible that the myth was created to enhance the romance of his story as the creator of Champagne and to perpetuate the aura and magic of it.

The Mythical Status of Champagne

 

“Do not gaze on wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup...” Proverbs 23:31

And Virgil writes in 70-19BC: “And now a cup heavy with gems and gold

The Queen bade bring, and filled it with pure wine...

And having made libation, with lips edge...

Drank of the foaming goblet...        

How perfect would it have been to see the "gems and gold" foaming away in this 17th century goblet.

 

 

Perhaps then Dom Perignon did not invent Champagne but instead captured the “sparkles” in the bottle for he certainly understood the importance of fermentation and what it imparted into a still wine. 

 

About Champagne

Those, who enjoy a tipple of the fine bubbly, are acquainted with the Province of Champagne: a famous wine region situated near the north-eastern border of France. The three grape varieties used to produce true Champagne are Pinot noir, Pinot meunier, and Chardonnay and of course the only country allowed by law to use the term Champagne is France.

The narrative of Champagne from the vineyard to the flute is complex: from the planting of the vines; when the grapes are harvested in the European Autumn; the primary and secondary fermentation processes, and from the tasting ritual to the bottling and ageing. The making of Champagne is a craft.

Some Advice from the Experts about Champagne

* Avoid costly special bottle types and vintages- they may not deliver and those who are unfamiliar with Champange prefer the year of vintage to be printed on the label.

* Champagne is a drink-now wine, is does not get better with age

* Open the cork slowly, ease it out carefully and with a sigh

* Use crystal glasses but not with a wide coupe, use flute glasses instead as they hold the bubbles and the aroma well

* Sip slowly, don't drink quickly; after a few minutes the wine will become fuller and more aromatic

Robert Walters and his book "Bursting Bubbles"

Robert Walters is a wine merchant, vineyard owner, and author: in his book Bursting Bubbles he aims to dispel the myths around Dom Perignon, and sings the praises of the growers in the Champagne wine region. 

Firstly he suggests that Champagne was not invented in Champagne and that the Hautvillers Abbey was not the birthplace of it - you will have to read the book to find out where

Next he states that winemakers of the time considered bubbles to be a fault in the wine 

And finally he asserts that Perignon probably did not say "Come quickly, I am drinking the stars".

Walters does say though that Dom Perignon actively encouraged and developed practices that led to quality improvements; the wines sold out of the Hautvillers Abbey were popular and expensive.

Adina Vineyard Sparkling Wine 

We have just released our 2014 Sparkling Chardonnay/Pinot noir. This wine is generous in flavour and fills the mouth with the beauty of bubbles.  

 

References
J.D. Bullock, J.P. Wang, G.H. Bullock, 1998, "Was Dom Perignon Really Blind", Survey of Opthamology, vol 42, no. 5.
J.A. Harriss, 2007, "Cheers for Champagne", The American Spectator.
S. Thomsen, 2016, Business Insider