The abbey of Hautvillers remains for me the place of inspiration and vision that it was in the time of dom Pierre Pérignon. Founded circa 650 by Saint Nivard, and home to the relics of Saint Helena since 841, Hautvillers survived the vicissitudes of history in an unbroken cycle of destruction and rebirth. Pillaged by the Normans in 882, plundered during the Hundred Years War, sacked during the Wars of Religion, damaged after the French Revolution and during the World Wars, Hautvillers was rebuilt several times, once thanks to a gift from Catherine de Medici.
The presence of the relics brought fame, pilgrims and riches to the Abbey. A young monk called dom Pierre Pérignon was named cellarer in 1668, at 29 years of age. He immediately set out to develop the abbey (creating a dormitory, rebuilding the cloister, erecting a new entrance and adding the Gates of Saint Helena); to enlarge the holdings (Hautvillers became the largest vineyard in Champagne at ten times the size of the average property); and to modernise the winemaking (selecting of grapes for the assemblage or renovating the wine presses). Under dom Pierre Pérignon’s guidance, the destiny of the Abbey became forever linked to viticulture and winemaking, and during the reign of Louis XIV Hautvillers became famous as much for its sparkling wine as for its spiritual importance.
Nearly 200 years after dom Pierre Pérignon’s death, the time for renovation had come again. In 2009 we commissioned a study in order to restore the gates of Saint Helena, the cloisters and the gardens employing special techniques from the 17th century. The gates and the cloister being French Heritage Sites, the work was supervised by an architect from the “Bâtiments de France”. Overlooking the gardens which offer a history of viticultural practices, the former library of the cloister has been restored to its former glory—its contemplative and serene aura providing the perfect setting for Dom Pérignon tastings. Finally, ruins discovered at the end of the 1980s following archeological excavations have been secured for further study. After three years of planning and labor, the renovations are now complete.
Like the men who left their mark in Hautvillers through architecture, contemplation and working the land, dom Pérignon was a temporary guardian, whose legacy lives on through the seminal treatise written by Brother Pierre, his disciple and successor, and titled “Treatise of the Vine Culture of Champagne”. The Abbey is still home to this unique and precious tome, both tangible links between past and present, symbols of modernity and tradition. The legacy of the Abbey of Hautvillers is beyond technical, it is first and foremost spiritual. Inspiration finds me here, as I walk its grounds and I become one with this space, with no objective other than remaining true to the timeless essence of Dom Pérignon.