The Abbaye d’Hautvillers was founded by Saint Nivard, Archbishop of Rheims (nephew of King Dagobert of France), said to have appeared to the good clergyman in a dream. It was also famously the domain of Dom Pérignon (1639 - 1715), cellar master of the Abbey from 1668 to his death.
The Abbaye d’Hautvillers forms part of the Champagne Hillsides, Houses and Cellars now included on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Perched on a site overlooking the eastern valley, the Abbey enjoyed some protection from the marauding barbarian hordes bent on pillage as they passed through the villages of the Val-de-Marne on their way across France. Hence the name Hautvillers, which translates as"High Village" in modern French. To this day, the village’s inhabitants are known as ’Altavillois" (literally "high villagers").
- "The Abbey observed the rules of Saints Vanne and Hydulphe, part of a Benedictine reform movement centered on the Duchy of Lorraine and established in 1604. In 841 a member of the Congregation by the name of Teutgise stole some of the relics of St Helena while on a pilgrimage to Rome and brought them back to the Abbey. (…)"
- In the 16th Century, the Abbey enjoyed a new lease of life "(…) thanks to Catherine of Médicis’ donations. It then entered a new golden age at the end of the17th Century before being dismantled in 1793."
May 1668 marked the arrival of Dom Pierre Pérignon — a dynamic, modern-thinking young man who injected new life into the Abbey. Appointed cellar-master and procurator at age 30, he discharged his administrative duties with exemplary zeal, demonstrating a commitment to modernisation that would keep the Abbey solvent and also bring it lasting fame.
Dom Pérignon proved an innovative and hard-working cellar-master who transformed the whole culture of wine at the Abbey— from the development and management of the vineyard to the making of the wine itself.
Our enterprising monk was laid to rest in the choir of the former Abbey church, now the parish church of Hautvillers. His gravestone bears the epitaph "Here lies Dom Pierre Pérignon" — marking the passing of a celebrated monastic cellar-master whose legacy continues to inspire the production of vintage Champagne.