Hautvillers, France

by Wendy VanHatten

When we can travel to France, check out the small villages in addition to more well-known cities.

Why? Small villages in France are meant to be explored on foot. Hautvillers, in the north east part of France in the Champagne region, is one of those villages.

What makes this one special?

Dom Perignon.

Have you heard of him? Maybe you equate his name with special-occasion, amazing Champagne. But, do you know anything else about him?

Born in about 1638 in the Champagne region of France, he was one of eight children. His family was like many others. They owned a few vineyards where he spent some time.

At a young age, he studied at an abbey, a Jesuit college, and became a monk. In fact, he ended up leading a monastery as a French Benedictine monk.

While at the Abbey of Hautvillers, he served as cellarer for its vineyard. That’s where he is credited with making improvements to the Champagne process or methode Champenoise. Before him and his new technique, Champagne bottles would explode as the yeasts came back to life in the warm spring temperatures. A lot of great Champagne was lost due to those exploding bottles. Not to mention danger if you happened to be near one. He figured out to avoid these explosions.

Some of his other discoveries and advancements include combining different terroirs, pressing immediately after picking, holding corks down with string, digging cellars in the limestone to keep the Champagne at constant temperatures, and creating bubbles through a secondary fermentation. We can thank him for the prestigious Champagne we drink today.

In 1715, Dom Perignon was buried in the nave of the Abbey of Hautvillers. Typically, this section was reserved only for Abbots. That’s how well thought of he is in the village. His marble stone says he led his life “Cum Summa laude”, a mark of the highest praise.

Considered the cradle of Champagne, Hautvillers is a wine-producing village with its own unique look.

Houses used to display forged iron signs hanging from their entryways. These let everyone know what each shop was famous for. Today, many signs showcase activities related to Champagne. Others are for atmosphere.

We noticed the Hautvillers town prayer above one doorway. This is the morning prayer in the Champagne fashion.

Donnez-moi la sante pour longtemps, du boulot pas trop souvent, de l’amour de temps en temps, mais du champagne tout le temps.

Give me health for a long time, work not too often, love from time to time, but Champagne all the time.

I like this guy! And I love this village…check it out.

If You Go: Hautvillers is located about 11 minutes north of Epernay.