Dom Pérignon is produced by the Champagne house of Moët & Chandon, and it serves as that house's prestige Champagne. It is named after Dom Pérignon, a Benedictine monk who was an important quality pioneer for Champagne wine but who, contrary to popular myths, did not discover the Champagne method for making sparkling wines.
Dom Pérignon (1638–1715) was a monk and cellar master at the Benedictine abbey in Hautvillers. He pioneered a number of winemaking techniques around 1670 - 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. He also introduced 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). The development of sparkling wines as the main style of production in Champagne occurred progressively in the 19th century, more than a century after Dom Pérignon's death.
The first vintage of Dom Pérignon was 1921 and was only released for sale in 1936, sailing to New York in the liner Normandie. The brand, not exploited, was given by Champagne Mercier to Moët in 1927 for a wedding between the two families.
In 1935, 300 bottles of a 1926-vintage precursor to Dom Pérignon were sold to Simon Bros. & Co., the company that imported Moët in the United Kingdom, who gave two bottles to each of their 150 best customers to commemorate their centenary. While these bottles were almost identical to the subsequent Dom Pérignon releases, they did not display the Dom Pérignon name, rather "Champagne specially shipped for Simon Brothers & Co's Centenary 1835-1935." The wine got immediate attention in the marketplace and 100 boxes of the 1921 vintage were shipped to the United States shortly thereafter, this time displaying the Dom Pérignon name.
Until the 1943 vintage, Dom Pérignon was produced from regular vintage Moët & Chandon Champagne that was transferred to the special 18th century-style bottles after extended cellaring. It was, thus, effectively an "oenothèque" release of Moët & Chandon Vintage Champagne in a different bottle. From the 1947 vintage, Dom Pérignon has been produced separately from the start. Dom Pérignon is always a vintage champagne, meaning that it is not made in weak years, and all grapes used to make the wine were harvested in the same year.
From 1921 to 2009, Dom Pérignon champagne has been produced in 42 vintages. More than two vintage years in a row used to be a rare phenomenon, which until 2004 had only occurred three times: in 1969, 1970, and 1971; in 1998, 1999, and 2000; in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006 marked the first time when five vintages had been produced in a row.
Since 1959 a rosé version of Dom Pérignon is also produced. 26 Dom Pérignon Rosé vintages have been produced until 2006.
Dom Pérignon is always an assemblage of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes, although the final composition changes every vintage: at times a blend in perfectly equal proportions (e.g. 1990 Rosé), at times up to 60% Chardonnay (1982) or 60% Pinot Noir (1969), and only once going over 60% (with 65% Chardonnay in 1970).
The number of bottles produced in each vintage is not precisely defined, although it is at least 5 million bottles.