Dom Pérignon, THE bubble man. The story of Champagne

 

If there’s one man we need to thank in this world, it has to be Dom Pérignon. This 18th century monk is THE bubble man that created and founded champagne. The best thing about this story is that it was all by mistake!

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THE bubble man and I

Back in the day, monks from the Abbey of Hautvillers (where Dom Pérignon came from) worked on the vineyards to produce wine. Even though the monks were making wine, their wine making reputation of Pinot Gris and Chardonnay wines were not so good.

Dom Pérignon wanted to change this, and revamp the wine that was being made. His aim was to make it a more enjoyable drink – As all wine should be!

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The Abbey

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Inside the Abbey

Being in charge of the cellars, Dom decided to implement a few changes to the wine making process….

He introduced an oak wine press from the Burgundy region

Instead of foot stomping the grapes, the oak press extracted the white juice from the red grapes through a soft, slow press – something that had never been done before!

He introduced Pinot Noir to the region

This variety is one of the key grape varities in the Champagne mix – Chardonnay, Mourvèdre, and Pinot Noir

He was the first to mix grape varieties together

Talk about a match-maker master!

He was the first to put wine in a bottle!

A crystal see-through bottle in fact!

This was a big development in the ‘World of Wine’. Being able to see the bottle contents meant that you didn’t have to worry about whether it had poison in it.

People were so brutal back then!

He also made the bottle a flat bottom bottle. This too meant that it prohibited people from popping explosives in the base of it. Again, so brutal!!

He was the first to put the cork in a wine bottle

Dom brought this innovative technique to Champagne from Belgium where they corked beer bottles.

To produce the cork, cork trees were then planted in the Champagne region. Not sure about you, but when I hear cork trees, all I can imagine is a tree growing little wine bottle corks on it.

 

How the magic happened

While Dom Pérignon was in the process of making wine, it was during the 2nd fermentation where all the magic happened.

When the yeast and sugar mixed, the wine started to produce carbon dioxide, and as a result 18% of the bottles exploded. This was due to the sheer pressure built up inside the bottles from the carbon dioxide. Whoops!

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Hooray for mistakes!

With such a strange occurrence happening during the wine making process, the townsfolk thought it was the workings of Satan.

While there were still some bottles in the mix that didn’t explode, they decided to taste them and boy where they surprised! It’s been claimed that they felt like they were drinking the stars. This iconic moment is featured on the label, with the one star.

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Notice the star on the label?!

While you’re probably thinking they were drinking the champagne as we know champagne today, back then it was a very VERY sweet syrupy wine – 400g of sugar with bubbles on top to be exact. That’s 2 cups of sugar in a bottle!! Talk about a sugar hit. Most fortifieds have only a quarter of that sugar content.

So how did champagne become what we know it as today?

There were many great influencers over the years following Dom Pérignon.

Madame Clicquot (Verve Clicquot)

A century after the discovery of Champagne, Madame Clicquot didn’t want to wait until dessert to drink the sweet wine. She discovered that the yeast and sugar could be shifted to the neck of the bottle by conducting a rotation of the bottle, slowly moving the bottle to sit upside down – known as riddling.  She discovered this process from placing the bottles in the holes of her table.

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An example of what her table would have looked like! So much wine!!

Once she completed the riddling process, the top of the wine bottle was frozen and the sugar and yeast was removed – known as disgorgement. The wine was then topped up with more wine. This process also made the wine a lot more clearer.

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Thanks Madame Clicquot

 

Madame Pommery (Pommery)

In 1874, Madame Pommery decided it was still too sweet and reduced the wine sugar content even further from 150g to 10g

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Madame Pommery didn’t like the sweet life

 

While Dom was not necessarily behind the Champagne we know today, he is the king of the blend and technique of Champagne.

I take my hat off to him, if I was wearing a hat, and thank him for giving us this bubbly goodness we pop to drink for special occasions, and just to enjoy a glass of those sparkling stars.

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RIP Dom Perignon

A couple of fun Dom facts

The world’s most expensive bottle of Dom Pérignon is €2000

Every Dom Pérignon is a vintage wine, meaning that the bottle comes from the best grapes from the region in one year. If the Dom Pérignon is not a good vintage, it then off it goes to Moet and Chandon.

 

Until next time winos,

 

Cheers

 

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