In 1772, the intentions of the House founder, Philippe Clicquot, were clear. He put an advertisement in the Gazette de France announcing that he was "founding a wine merchant business in Champagne, under the label Clicquot" and that he was offering to go to all four corners of the kingdom to take the fine taste of champagne wines to foreigners (the House was officially founded February 3, 1772). The House's destiny was sealed with these objectives, which were soon achieved during his many expeditions to Italy, then Germany, and Switzerland the following year, then Russia in 1780 and the United States in 1782.
Since its inception, the house has been a specialist in Champagnes that are based on the Pinot Noir grape, particularly rosés (Clicquot was the first Champagne producer to ship rosé in 1775).
In 1798, François Clicquot (the son of the founder) married Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin (daughter of the mayor of the Champagne village of Reims). Madame Clicquot was widowed in 1805 at the age of 27 when her husband died of fever. Veuve Clicquot ("veuve" means "widow" in French and rhymes with 'love') took over her husband's business, unheard of at the time. From then on Madame Clicquot’s business methods - from risky overseas ventures to revolutionary technological innovations - forever changed the Champagne industry as a whole. In 1810, she renamed the house Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin and introduced the first vintage champagne.The Embargo
One of Mme. Clicquot’s riskiest ventures was sending secret shipments of her Champagne to Russia in 1814 in defiance of Napoleon's embargo. She knew that her Russian customers were her most important because Russia’s court was the most prestigious in Europe and the Russians were reputed to be great lovers of Champagne. The first vintage Mme. Clicquot shipped to Russia was the famous 1811 vintage also known as “the year of the comet” for The Great Comet of 1811, which was visible for 18 months. Not only was 1811 an exciting year in astronomy, but it was one of the most well regarded Champagne vintages of the 19th century.
In the end, Mme. Clicquot’s repeated efforts to expand the market in Russia paid off with Clicquot becoming the market leader there. Veuve Clicquot was instrumental in developing export markets worldwide. Revenue gained from that success in Russia was instrumental in financing the purchase of large pieces of the finest vineyard property in Champagne. These extensive vineyard holdings continue to distinguish Veuve Clicquot today.Riddling
In 1816, Mme. Clicquot invented a process called rémuage or riddling, which proved to be an important step in dégorgement (where the spent yeast sediment leftover from secondary fermentation is ejected from the bottle). Before this time, Champagne was cloudy due to this sediment. Mme. Clicquot cut holes in her kitchen table, creating a rack for the bottles to sit upside down. She then perfected the method of slowly tilting and turning the bottles just a little bit everyday for a long period of time. Thanks to gravity, the spent yeast collected in the neck of the bottle. Once the sediment settled, it could be removed by freezing of the bottle’s neck in salt water, removing the cork and releasing the yeast. Then the bottle could be recorked and the Champagne would be clear. After the Widow
In 1841, Edouard Werlé took over for Mme. Clicquot, but she continued to play a lively role until her death in 1866 at the age of 89.
With the 1873 vintage, Veuve Clicquot launched their iconic yellow colored label. This label was legally trademarked in 1877.
Expansion of the vineyard holdings continued under M. Werlé’s son, Alfred, who took over in 1884.
Despite the widespread devastation of phylloxera, two World Wars and the Great Depression, Champagne Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin continued to grow throughout the twentieth century and remains a dominant force in Champagne today. The company went public in 1963 and merged with Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy in 1986. Throughout this period, its quality and reputation have continued to grow.
The first landmark vintage of La Grande Dame, 1966, was released in 1972 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the house and La Grande Dame Rosé was introduced in 1996 with the 1988 vintage. The 'La Grande Dame' moniker was given to Madame Clicquot by her competitors during her lifetime.
Currently, Dominique Demarville is the chief winemaker at Veuve Clicquot.
[Link to this Entry]