Did Dom Pérignon invent champagne? Not quite fake news, but definitely an alternative fact about champagne.
Dom Pérignon didn’t invent champagne. In fact, it’s more likely no one really invented it because it all started out as an accident, albeit a very happy one for us today!
So what’s the real story?
Dom Pérignon was certainly a champagne pioneer, guru and out-and-out legend – there is no doubt about that!
He was actually tasked with solving a common wine-making problem of the time (circa 1693), where bottles of wine were exploding without warning.
Wine wanker warning …
I need to get a bit geeky here to set the scene. So wine is made through a process of fermentation. In the early wine making days when tools were limited, a secondary fermentation was induced by warm weather and stopped during winter. In Spring, when the weather started warming up, it triggered the wine to re-ferment which produced gas, or bubbles, in the wine. This weather-induced effervescence caused extra pressure in the bottles which the glass couldn’t withstand… so the bottles exploded. The French dubbed this bubbling wine in exploding bottles le vin du diable, or “the devil’s wine”.
Modern day champagne is actually produced by very similar principles… just using a far more controlled process that is not at the mercy of the weather.
So what did Dom Pérignon do for champagne?
DP – as he’s known to his friends… and by that I mean his lazy bloggers like me who can’t be arsed to type his name out over and over – helped pioneer the fermentation controls among other things like…
- inventing a press which enabled white wine to be made from black grapes – which has become a cornerstone of champagne
- re-introducing corks (previously they used wood) and using thicker glass bottles to prevent the common problem of the bubbles exploding the bottles
So he definitely did great things for champagne… but he didn’t invent it.
And it’s very unlikely that he ever actually said “Come quickly I am tasting the stars”. It is commonly reported (urban legend) that he said this the moment he ‘discovered’ champagne but there is no evidence he ever made that statement. In fact the famous quote isn’t documented anywhere until it appeared in a print advert in the 1800s. About 100 years after DP died (in 1715). Nuff said.
Here are some things that ARE amazing but true…
- Even today, exploding bottles are a problem and have caused many deaths in the cellars of the great houses.
- Because the pressure in the bottles remains a problem, most houses will only bottle ferment up to magnum or less commonly jeroboams. All bottle sizes above that are filled after fermentation because the more champagne, the more bubbles, the greater the pressure and the more likelihood of an explosion.
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