Heritage of Champagne
Few names are so iconic and hold as much lustre in the wine industry as Dom Pérignon. And, while many may be quick to associate the name to the production of Champagne, few may be aware of the roots of his legacy. Born to a clerk in Sainte-Menehould in 1638, Dom Pérignon would grow up to become a Benedictine monk, when he would become cellarer – or supervisor of food and drink supplies – at the Abbey of Hautvillers, his home until death.
Influence on Champagne
During his time at the abbey, Dom Pérignon would change the face of wine production and preserve his name in history. Though some often attribute him with inventing Champagne, his role was in fact to instigate a change to the method of production and the elimination of refermentation which, until then, had proved hazardous to the wine-making process. A significant part of the change was the use of Pinot Noir grapes instead of only white varieties. Plus, unlike other wine makers, Pérignon was adamant that the production should contain all-natural processes, while the pressing of the grapes should be performed multiple times. The transformation of the process was of such significance, Moët et Chandon honoured the work of the humble monk by naming its famous Champagne after him.
The marketing man of Champagne
Like Dom Perignon, one of the most compelling stories behind the success and widespread appeal of Champagne features an instantly recognisable name: Eugene Mercier, founder of the Mercier Champagne House. Heralded as a man before his time and with ideas that would bring Champagne from the hidden world of luxury dining to a wider audience, Mercier was bold and decisive in his actions… as well as a notable showman.
Among the many inventive and unique marketing campaigns undertaken was the development of an entire underground town of Champagne cellars. Construction, which saw the excavation of 47 tunnels and covering 18 kilometres, began in 1871 and was opened to the public in 1885. Similarly audacious publicity stunts included the construction of a 20-tonne Cathedral of Champagne cask (the world’s largest wine barrel), which was presented at the World Fair in Paris after travelling all the way from Epernay, causing the collapse of bridges en route.
With such a reputation for generating interest in his product, there’s little surprise that Eugene Mercier is often regarded as one of the earliest marketing geniuses. By bringing Champagne to the wider market, he was able to generate demand for the product and drive tourism to the region at an unprecedented rate. Without Mercier, it’s fair to say that the Champagne industry today would be something altogether different.