The monks behind champagne’s creation
Next time you’re sipping a glass of your favourite champagne, you might consider raising a glass to two 17th-century French monks. Why? Because between them, Dom Pierre Pérignon and Dom Thierry Ruinart were instrumental in bringing to life the drink we know and love today. Good friends, these monks shared a passion for making exceptional wine. So it’s fitting that their names live on in two of the world’s finest champagne Houses, Dom Pérignon and Ruinart .
Their friendship flourished three centuries ago at the Abbey of Saint-Pierre d’Hautvillers in Champagne, where they worked together. There, Dom Pérignon (the abbey’s exacting cellar master until his death in 1715) had dedicated himself to creating the very best wine. In this, he was ably assisted by Dom Ruinart. Today, from the vineyards surrounding the abbey, the House of Dom Pérignon still harvests grapes for its champagne.
Perfecting méthode champenoise
In both vineyard and winery, Dom Pérignon was an extraordinary pioneer. In fact, his innovations were so pivotal, that he is revered as the champion of méthode champenoise – the wine-making style behind champagne. Dom Pérignon saw the importance of sorting and handling grapes with the utmost care, separating out rotten grapes and harvesting when the grapes are cool. He took the art of blending grapes from different crus to a new level. And he invented the pressing technique of white wines from black grapes – so often the case for champagne.
The results were certainly worth it, it seems. In 1694, Dom Pérignon was able to write with conviction to a customer from the town of Épernay in Champagne: “Sir, I have given you 26 bottles of the best wine in the world.” His pursuit of perfection is still reflected in Dom Pérignon’s craft – the House makes wine only in years when the grapes are at their best – creating only ever a vintage champagne.
Envisioning the bubbles
As it turned out, his friend Dom Ruinart, was something of a visionary too. During a spell studying in Paris, he had come across a new “wine with bubbles”, fashionable among aristocrats at the time. He soon began to imagine how sparkling wine would taste if it was made with grapes of his homeland, which we now know as Champagne.
Captivated by this idea, Dom Ruinart shared it with his nephew, Nicolas Ruinart. Nicolas in turn, was so inspired by his uncle’s vision that in 1729, he founded Ruinart – the very first Champagne House. In tribute to Dom Ruinart, who had died 20 years before, Nicolas gave his uncle’s name to the House’s best cuvée, Dom Ruinart. So we can still celebrate his achievements with a glass of elegant bubbles today.