It's July in Minnesota, which means that we're in the heart of summer. Despite being a state known for snow and winter sports, we take summer pretty seriously in the land of 10,000 lakes. While some might argue that cold beer is the best companion on a hot day, I agree that it does the job in a pinch--but a glass of bubbly is even better. Effervescent and refreshing, champagne is a surprisingly perfect pairing for not only toasts (seriously - try it with scrambled eggs or potato chips). Champagne has an interesting history, and the best products are imbued with their own stories. One of the best known brands, Dom Pérignon, has an especially storied history. There's quite a bit stuffed into this champagne box.
The History of a Great House
For a sparkling wine to be called champagne, it must come from the Champagne region of France. That's where we're starting this story, in France circa 1668. Dom Pierre Pérignon was a French Benedictine monk. While he didn't *invent* champagne, the Dom heavily influenced how it was made in a time when the region primarily produced red wines. While it might sound strange that a monastery controlled a vineyard, it wasn't uncommon in medieval France. Even today, authentic Trappist beers are brewed in monasteries. Today, it makes money; at the time, it was just another beverage.
Back to champagne. The region of Champagne had been known as a wine produce since Roman times, but it was competing with neighbor Burgundy for production and quality. As cellarmaster, Dom Pérignon took great strides in increasing the quality and quantity of wines from the region. His accomplishments include:
- Being the first to blend grapes in such a way as to improve the quality of wines, balance one element with another in order to make a better whole, and deal with a number of their imperfections
- Perfecting the art of producing clear white wines from black grapes by clever manipulation of the presses
- Enhancing the tendency of Champagne wines to retain their natural sugar in order to naturally induce secondary fermentation in the Spring
- Being a master at deciding when to bottle these wines in order to capture the bubble
- Introducing corks (instead of wood), which were fastened to bottles with hemp string soaked in oil in order to keep the wines fresh and sparkling, and used thicker glass in order to strengthen the bottles (which were prone to explode at that time)
Basically, he established wine-making principles that are still in use today.
A Champagne Box for the Ages
Over the years, the demand for Dom Pérignon has only grown. Economics is all about supply and demand: when supply is limited, demand is higher. As a vintage champagne, all the grapes must be harvested in the same year. And, if it was a weak year for grapes, it's not made at all. Since 1921, there have been 41 vintages; it's extremely rare for harvests to result in a vintage multiple years in a row. When your goal is bottled perfection, it's obvious that not every year will yield the best.
Dom Pérignon, despite the demand from royalty and rappers alike, never compromises for quality. A luxury product needs luxury packaging, and while Minnesota-based Sunrise doesn't make their boxes, we're enamored of the custom set up champagne box style utilized.