1821: A French Monk in the region of Champagne was looking to improve upon the standing of the Catholic Church in the region. His name was Dom Grossart, he wrote to the deputy mayor of the town of Ay, stating that, ‘as you know Monsiour…… it was the celebrated Dom Perignon….. who found the secret of making white sparkling wine’
This is the first record of Dom Perignon’s existence, anything that may have been recorded as to his presence or otherwise at the monastery was destroyed when the monastery was sacked during the revolution. Sacked with good reason as well, it seems that they didn’t regard their lay peasantry with quite the same grace or regard as their monastic brothers. The peasantry around Hautvilliers was reputed to be ‘more wretched and poor than anywhere else’.
Over the following half a decade, mentions of Dom Perignon and his miraculous discovery multiply. Reaching a point by the 1860’s where it was a semi accepted fact. Hautvilliers was rebuilt and people were shown around, what they were now being told was the original cellar and press that Dom Perignon had used.
Nearly 200 years of repetition has given the story a sheen of truthfulness. This isn’t quite the same as it being true though.
My question is; If the good folk at Moet & Chandon (LVMH) who market Dom Perignon, and fill their marketing literature with stories of Dom Perignon’s genius are aware of his fictional status. Then are they guilty of false advertising?
Putting it in another way, we are no longer allowed to make spurious health claims when we sell products, though to be truthful many people still do, so why is it that bogus historical origin stories are accepted without much question.
I might as well start claiming that Ronald McDonald invented the beef burger, or that the earth was created in 6 days…. though, thinking about it, maybe that’s why we’re so forgiving of these lies. Constant repetition has robbed them of their ante natal maliciousness and furnished them with a patina of tradition and sheen of glossy romanticism.