Maison Veuve Clicquot
The "Grande Dame" of Champagne
Before there was a Champagne house, there was a woman: Barbe-Nicole Clicquot, daughter of Baron Ponce-Jean Nicolas Ponsardin. In 1805, after the sudden death of her husband François Clicquot, she inherited his wine estate. It was founded by François' father, Mr. Philippe Clicquot, in the 18th century. The family Champagne house unofficially produced sparkling wine since its creation in 1772, as Philippe chose not to sell his bottles (they were only for his personal consumption and gifted to friends and family). After a few years, he finally decided to sell his own brand-name Champagne and was outputting 100,000 bottles each year. He also designed the anchor logo, as a symbol of hope in the future.
Barbe-Nicole's strong personality and her impressive business acumen made it possible for her to successfully manage her husband's Champagne house, although she was only 27 years old at the time. The "Veuve Clicquot" (French for "Widow Clicquot") as she was nicknamed, fought against the selling of François' vineyard and came up with enough money to save the business from bankruptcy, in 1806. Later, she bought even more grand cru grapevines located in the Montagne de Reims region, bringing the total surface of her vineyard to almost 300 hectares. In doing so, she became one the leading businesswomen of the era.
In 1810, she innovated by creating the first vintage Champagne, which was completely unheard of at the time. Four years later, Barbe-Nicole's bottles could be found in Russian czars' cellars, as well as in the hands of many noblemen, from France and beyond. Nothing could stop the young woman's rise. She invented the riddling table, used to make clearer wines, in 1816. It was such a breakthrough that every other Champagne house of the region soon adopted it. This "Grande Dame" of Champagne also gave birth to the yellow label still present on every bottle. The design was officially patented in 1877, to fight against counterfeit champagnes.
Mrs. Clicquot died in 1866. That same year, the Champagne house could produce up to 750,000 bottles per year, sold in every European country. The widow Clicquot turned her husband's business into one of the biggest powerhouses of the Champagne region, as she invested in new technologies and improved production methods, without losing sight of what really mattered: quality. Despite going against some serious opponents during the 1930's, like Moët or Hennessy, Clicquot Ponsardin always came out on top, transcending Champagne to become the image of prestige itself.
In 1972, the Champagne house honored its founder by creating the "Veuve Clicquot Prize", only awarded to the best female business owners, as well as the "Grande Dame" cuvée. The LVMH Group (which owns some heavy hitters such as Moët & Chandon, Dom Pérignon, Krug, Ruinart, Glenmorangie, Ardbeg, Hennessy, Yquem, Esclans and many other famous estates) bought the Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin brand in 1987. Thanks to this buyout, the Champagne house left the Earth and now reaches for the stars.
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