Joe Six-Pack knows who to thank. Now before you get yourself all up in a lather, breaking out sources from Bon Appetit Magazine to refute this assertion, etc., let me just skip you straight to the Wikipedia citation for champagne, complete with footnotes for you to follow up on.
Contrary to legend and popular belief, Dom Pérignon did not invent sparkling wine, but he did make important contributions to the production and quality of Champagne wine. The oldest recorded sparkling wine is Blanquette de Limoux, which was apparently invented by Benedictine Monks in the Abbey of Saint Hilaire, near Carcassonne in 1531. They achieved this by bottling the wine before the initial fermentation had ended.
Skipping over to the citation for Blanquette de Limoux, we learn the following,
Records show that Livy traded in non-sparkling white wines from Limoux as far back as the Roman occupation of the region.
Blanquette de Limoux is considered to be the first sparkling white wine produced in France, created long before the Champagne region became world renowned for the sparkling wine Champagne. The first textual mention of “blanquette”, from the Occitan expression for “the small white”, appeared in 1531 in papers written by Benedictine monks at an abbey in Saint-Hilaire. They detail the production and distribution of Saint-Hilaire’s blanquette in cork-stoppered flasks. The region’s location, north of the Cork Oak forest of Cataluña, gave Limoux producers easy access to the material needed to produce secondary fermentation in the flask, which produces the bubbles necessary for sparkling wine.
Local lore suggests that Dom Pérignon invented sparkling white wine while serving in this Abbey before moving to the Champagneregion and popularizing the drink, but this is almost certain to be false since Dom Pérignon was involved with improving Champagne’s still wines, and not the sparkling ones.
So what’s all the fuss about Dom Pierre Pérignon? Well, he was a perfectionist, is all I can figure. And whether or not he invented champagne while at the abbey vineyards, he went to great lengths to make all of the wines it produced to be of the highest quality. What follows is from Dom Perignon Champagne’s official website,
Inspiration, creation and sharing have always been the driving forces in the destiny of the Abbey of Saint Pierre d’Hautvillers. Over the centuries, this exceptional building has witnessed the passing of both the powerful and the humble; it has lived on its own local scale all the vicissitudes of the History of France.
This is the place where Dom Pierre Pérignon dedicated 47 years of his life to invent and perfect the techniques to create a wine whose reputation knows no equal. Perched on a rolling hill overlooking the Marne Valley in the heart of the Champagne region, the Benedictine abbey is the place where he pursued his mission to create “the best wine in the world.”
Today, the heritage that Dom Pérignon receives never prevents the expression of its creation. Richard Geoffroy, Chef de Cave, finds here the inspiration to create the Dom Pérignon Vintages.
Saint Hilare, pray for us. Have a safe and happy New Year!