Dom Perignon was Cellar Master of the Beneditine Abbey of Hautvillers for 47 years, until his death in 1715.
Sparkling wines had been known for centuries, but were actually seen as inferior products in the late 17thCentury. Producers knew that certain wines began re-fermenting in the warm spring weather, and if enclosed they became sparkling, usually breaking the containers in which they were held. These wines were referred to as saute bouchon (stopper popper) or vin diable (devil wine). Dom Perignon and his contemporaries realized that the pressure build up was due to carbon dioxide, so he recommended using stronger bottles. He also experimented with replacements for the oil soaked cotton stoppers that were in use in those days, finally coming up with thick cork stoppers tied on with string.
Dom Perignon is also credited with being a pioneer in the art of blending wines to create a better and more consistent product. He also developed a method of presing black grapes that yeilded white juice, and improved clarification methods.
Legend holds that when Dom Perignon first tasted the sparkling wine now known as champagne he called to his fellow monks "Come quickly, I'm drinking stars!"
Down through the years many others have shared Dom Perignon's enthusiasm. Madame de Pompadour is reputed to have said "Champagne is the only wine that leaves a woman beautiful after drinking it". Marilyn Monroe is rumored to have once bathed in 350 bottles of champagne. In 1918 Winston Churchill said "Remember, gentlemen, it's not just France we are fighting for, it's Champagne!".
There is a wine festival in Hautvillers each year which celebrates the achievements attributed to Dom Perignon.