Welcome to the latest edition of The Well—a 4-minute breakdown of the stories behind your favorite alcohol brands.
On the shelf this week: Dom Pérignon, the legendary champagne with origins that go back nearly 400 years. If only the monk behind it knew his work would one day be a huge influence on Future and Drake.
The Story of Dom Pérignon
First things first: Contrary to some persistent rumors, sparkling wine wasn’t invented by the monk Dom Pierre Pérignon back in the late 1600s in the Champagne region. It’s now believed that the technique for utilizing a second fermentation to produce bubbles actually originated in England some thirty years before (but discuss this with French folks at your own peril).
Pérignon is, however, credited with pioneering some pretty genius tweaks when it comes to producing the bubbly that’s so revered today. Not only did our guy figure out you could make white wine from darker varieties of grapes, but he cracked the code on a persistent problem among sparkling winemakers up to that point: Come spring, the bottles would explode due to yeast refermenting as the weather warmed.
Pérignon figured out that if you harvested in cooler conditions and blended the grapes before pressing, the whole exploding-champagne-cellar debacle could be avoided. And his expertise in blending grapes eventually yielded a wine that became all the rage among the big city folks in Paris and London.
Frère Pérignon also happened to be a pretty shrewd businessman: He named his champagne after himself and soon enough, bottles with the Dom Pérignon label were selling for twice as much as other champagnes. Legend has it that much of the now-debunked mythology surrounding Dom Pérignon came from his successor at the Abbey of Hautvillers, who massively exaggerated some details in an effort to build buzz around the church. (A hype man if there ever was one.)
Fast forward to 1937, when Moët & Chandon bought the brand name Dom Pérignon and positioned it as its prestige cuvee (that’s wine-speak for “prize pony”). It continues to be one of the most revered champagnes in the world, largely due to its stringent production requirements: Dom is a varying blend of pinot noir and chardonnay grapes, aged for a minimum of 7 years, and is always a vintage champagne, meaning the grapes are from a single year.
Whenever you’re lucky enough to get your hands on a bottle, a pro tip: The bottles have an antique foil over the cork that’s so thin it’s difficult to get off. And that’s because you’re not supposed to take it off. The tab on the wire cage is meant to be pulled through the foil, and then the cage removed with whatever foil comes off along with it. Nobody really knows why. It’s just some Dom Pérignon sh*t.
Why I love Dom Pérignon
- It’s representative of a historic wine region.
- Looking at Dom Perignon’s life offers a peek into the contributions of monks, of all people, to the transition from ancient wine making into a new age of production, which is fascinating to me.
Growth & Marketing, Saucey