The Widow Clicquot was a brilliant entrepreneur in her day, which was no easy feat. Her world was full of male-run businesses and being a female wine maker was literally unheard of in the late 1700’s.
Veuve Clicquot is instantly recognizable in any establishment that offers cocktails by its bright yellow-orange label. Sipping on the bubbly confection is an elegant, luxurious treat that can be a signal of celebrations or just-because it’s a good day. Veuve (rhymes with LOVE) is a classic and we have Barbe-Nicole Clicquot Ponsardin, the Widow Clicquot to thank for this special treat. Tap on the picture below to see the youtube video from Julien Wine School on the correct pronunciation of the name:
I recently finished a book about the Widow Clicquot, a remarkable story of a woman in the early 19th century who successfully ran an entire champagne business on her own.
The Clicquot winery was founded in 1772 by Barbe’s father-in-law Philippe. Barbe-Nicole and her husband François took over the winery from her father in law in 1805, to lift the responsibilities from his banking and textile manufacturing businesses. Her husband died seven years after they were married and at twenty-seven years of age she continued the business on her own. Veuve Clicquot literally translates into english as “Widow Clicquot.” For her time, she was quite an ingenious entrepreneur, she was one of the first women to successfully run an international business in an industry dominated by men. Veuve Clicquot was the first champagne marketed across the world, inventing a new bottling technique that allowed the bottles to travel without breaking or popping. It is rumored that in 1811, while bribing guards of the Russian blockade she witnessed sabers being used to open the bottles that were given to the guards to allow the precious champagne shipments to be sold to Imperial Russia. We will never know for sure, but possibly Madame Clicquot could be credited for the practice of sabering the cork out of the top of the bottle. Although the widow Clicquot had one child, a daughter, she did not leave the family business to her, instead leaving it to Edouard Werlé when she died, who had joined the company in 1841 and expanded sales across Europe.
Unfortunately Barbe-Nicole was the only woman to ever run the house of Cliquot until 2001. LVMH (the corporation that owns Louis Vuitton) has owned the champagne house since they purchased it in 1897, and their marketing savvy is genius! Over 18 million bottles per year are sold to the U.S. from France. Every year there is a charity Polo Classic in New York and Los Angeles sponsored by Veuve Clicquot, and the champagne is constantly flowing.
The combination of grapes in Veuve Clicquot is what gives it its desirability; there is more pinot noir grapes than others. Pinot meunier, chardonnay and pinot noir are all grapes grown in the champagne region of France. To be classified as true champagne, the mix of grapes must contain one of these varieties. In 1818 Veuve Clicquot was the first company to create rose champagne by tinting champagne with red wine. Their finest of vintages, Le Grande Dame is named after Barbe-Nicole because she was respectfully known as Le Grande Dame of Champagne during her lifetime. Other labels include the popular Yellow Label, the pink label Rose, and the black label Extra Brut Extra Old.
If you are fortunate enough to be offered a glass of Veuve, take a long slow sip and salute to the ingenious woman who marketed an excellent product, centuries ahead of her time.