The Story Behind Widow Clicquot - A Champagne Saga
The Champagne that Czar Alexander renounced all other drinks for and the one that created Europe’s greatest businesswoman of the 19th century, Widow Clicquot is not just a Champagne, but history bubbling in a bottle.
Read on to find out how Champagne sprung to widespread popularity and one woman behind it all.
The Origins of Veuve Clicquot
Translated as ‘widow’ from French, the word ‘Veuve’ stands for the widow of François Clicquot- Madame Clicquot. Born as Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin in 1777, she was the daughter of a textile merchant from Reims in France during the French Revolution. She was married to the son of her father’s business rival, Francois Clicquot, to expand the textile business.
After being widowed at the age of 27, Madame Clicquot didn’t remarry but pursued the wine business that was part of François’s father’s company. This was because of the Napoleonic code that barred women except for widows from voting, or working without the consent of their father or husband.
She revolutionized the wine industry with the world’s first Vintage Champagne and sparked its spread by serving free wine to the Czar’s soldiers and French soldiers that occupied her land in the hopes of spreading the love for Champagne when the war ended. This is how Madame Clicquot single-handedly popularized bubbly.
Europe's Richest Women
After her husband’s death, that’s rumored to have been the result of typhoid rather than the suicide due to business loss, Madame Clicquot forsaked her inheritance from father-in-law Philippe Clicquot in return for renovating the family’s wine business. She also asked Philippe to invest $1 million to run the wine company that she was operating with her husband previously.
Without denying her intelligence, Philippe asked her to apprentice. However, when it didn’t improve the overall business, he decided to invest as she’d asked.
Along the way, she managed to get the 1811 Vintage Veuve Clicquot to Tsar Alexander. The exquisiteness was enough to make him say no to all other spirits. Madame Clicquot became France’s richest woman at the time of her prime. Even in 2012, long after her death, nine-liter batches of Veuve Clicquot reached sales of 1,474,000 annually worldwide.
How much champagne did Widow Clicquot sell? Let’s find out from the timeline.
- 1866: At the time of Madame’s death, 750,000 bottles were sold yearly through her empire, which amounts to approximately $40,000,000 annually at today’s price per bottle.
- 1841 onwards: Sales more than 400,000 bottles per year.
- 1818: Launch of the world’s first Rosé Champagne.
- 1816: Madame Clicquot invented the riddling table.
- 1814: Sent 10,500 for Russia at $100 per bottle.
- 1810: Creates the world’s first Vintage Champagne.
What Makes Veuve Clicquot Special?
Before her husband’s death, both the Madame and François signed up for several winemaking courses, helping her produce the first vintage and dry Champagnes that delivered a range of complex flavors.
It’s also the first Champagne to have separated the dead yeast with a process called riddling where the bottles are kept inverted to sediment the particles at the neck. From the invention of dry Champagne to the riddling table, Veuve Clicquot was a decade ahead of the competitors.
Situated in Reims today, Veuve Clicquot bottles still bear the signatory-yellow-label developed in the 19th century.
- Tasting Notes: Toasty, buttery, and rich with orange-nuttiness sans acidity and a biscuit-honey taste after.
- Food Pairing: Seafood, salads, ham, cheese, and almonds.
Where Can You Find Veuve Clicquot & Others
Here are the three of the best Champagne club options for you to order bubblies straight to your doorstep:
The perfect yellow-label Veuve Clicquot is available on Laithwaites Wine Club with Label Brut besides a range of other champagnes.
Winc's NV Petit Le Brun et Fils Champagne at $39.99 is a steal for this fruity and earthy dry champagne with 12% ABV.
Gold Medal Wine Club
If you’ve signed up for the Platinum membership on GMWC, you’ll get Bouché 2004 Brut Champagne from the Vallée de la Marne appellation.
Madame Clicquot built an unheard of dynasty for the time through her development of the toasty and rich Veuve Clicquot that exists to this very day. For a taste of history and tradition, Veuve Clicquot Champagne absolutely delivers.