The Grande Dame of Champagne
Born into a wealthy family in 1777, Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin was destined to live the bourgeois lifestyle typical of someone of her standing in 18th century France. However, the premature death of her husband, François-Marie Clicquot, when she was just 27, set Madame Clicquot’s life on a course that would transform the champagne industry.
When François-Marie died in 1805, Madame Clicquot was widowed and left to raise her three-year-old daughter, Clémentine, alone. At a time when women were rarely involved in business endeavours, Madame Clicquot made the gutsy decision to step into her husband’s shoes and run the family’s champagne producing business.
Her progressive and bold approach to business, combined with an innate understanding of luxury and a dedication to quality, led to Veuve Clicquot becoming the iconic brand that it is today. Today Veuve Clicquot (veuve translates to widow) carries on the legacy of the trailblazing Madame Clicquot- who became known as the Grande Dame of Champagne amongst her peers- in more ways than merely bearing her name.
Six ways Madame Clicquot shaped the champagne industry:
Madame Clicquot was one of the first women to run a large, male-dominated company.
Despite taking the reins of the business in the midst of war, Madame Clicquot expanded the champagne market globally in a way no one before her had. Carrying on her husband’s aim of bringing ‘the delicate taste of champagne wines to foreign lands’, Madame Clicquot forged success in Russia despite severed trade routes.
In 1810 Clicquot created the first known vintage in the champagne region. Vintage champagne must be aged for a minimum of five years and produced using grapes that have been sourced within a year.
In 1816 Madame Clicquot developed the first riddling table. With the intention of creating a transparent champagne with smaller bubbles, Clicquot created the practice of tilting the bottle at an angle, resulting in the separation of the champagne and the sediment. For six to eight weeks they were rotated by a quarter-turn every day by hand, a practice that continues today for certain vintages.
In 1818, using her Bouzy red wines, Madame Clicquot produced the very first rosé blend in champagne.
In 1836, to appeal to American consumers who placed an importance on the visual aspect of bottles, the first Veuve Clicquot label destined for this market was designed.