5 myths about Dom Pérignon debunked
When we think of champagne, the first name that inevitably comes to mind is Dom Pérignon, or Don Pérignon, or any number of other creative interpretations of his name. Trust us, we’ve seen them all.
The real Dom Pérignon was a French Benedictine monk, who entered the Benedictine Order at age 17. Benedictine monks follow the Rule of St. Benedict, meaning prayer, study and manual labor.
Pérignon’s father owned several vineyards in the French Providence of Champagne. Thus, Pérignon’s manual labor became tending to the cellars of the Abbaye Sait-Pierrer d’Hautvillers and he did so until his death in 1715. Under his guidance, the abbey’s vineyards more than doubled in size, and the quality of its grapes improved significantly.
He was so revered for his talent, that he was buried in a section of the abbey cemetery that had typically been reserved only for abbots.
One of his successors, Dom Groussard, did a little creative embellishing of Dom Pérignon’s story with the goal of gaining notoriety for the church. In doing so, he not only exceeded his goals for the church, he did the same for champagne itself. In the course of Groussard’s publicity campaign, a few myths were born that have persisted through the ages.
Here are just a few of the myths, debunked:
Myth 1: Dom Pérignon is the inventor of champagne. There has long been a debate over the origins of Champagne, we know that Royal Society records in the UK show that Christopher Merrit presented a paper on winemaking in 1662 that described how English merchants would alter wines to make them frothy and sparkling. While Dom Pérignon did not invent champagne, he certainly contributed greatly to perfecting it, always advocating for methods featuring naturally occurring processes.
Myth 2: Dom Pérignon was the first to use corks. This has never been proven and it appears that following a problem with cork taint, cork stoppers were in use again in France between 1685 – 1690, and would have been readily available to him.
Myth 3: Dom Pérignon was blind. Prior to blending the grapes, Dom Pérignon would deliberately taste the grapes without knowing their source vineyard so that his judgment would not be driven by his perception of a vineyard. This is a blind tasting, not tasting by a blind man.
Myth 4: Dom Pérignon was able to name the vineyard by tasting a single grape. This statement is believed to be related to his blind tastings, in which he was trying to avoid knowing which vineyards the grapes came from.
Myth 5: Dom Pérignon is credited with introducing the idea of blending to champagne. Dom Pérignon’s contribution here was in blending the grapes prior to sending them to the press.
The very first vintage of Dom Pérignon was 1921, released in 1936. In 2004, a 2-bottle lot of 1921 Dom Pérignon sold at auction by Christie’s for $7,638.00 USD. At the same sale, a three-bottle-lot was sold for $24,675.00. The bottles were from the collection of Doris Duke, daughter of US tobacco magnate James Buchanan Duke who famously ordered 100 bottles of the vintage for himself upon its release.
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