Women in Wine: Madame Veuve Clicquot

A Champagne that adorns tables at weddings and other celebrations worldwide, Veuve Clicquot is now universally known, all because of a tenacious, young widow who took her husband’s company global.

220px-Veuve-ClicquotBarbe-Nicole Ponsardin married Francois Clicquot in 1798. Francois was part of the family business with his father, who, among other things, ran a Champagne house. When Francois died just 7 years later, he left his young, 27-year-old widow (veuve, in French) in charge of the company. Taking up the reigns and renaming the house Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin, Madame Clicquot proved herself a shrewd businesswoman. During the reign of Napoleon and through the Napoleonic wars, Clicquot established her Champagne brand throughout Europe, including the courts of Imperial Russia.

Clicquot is also credited for both the bright yellow label that makes the brand so noticeable, as well as riddling, the Champagne making method that revolutionized the industry. Using a piece of her own furniture, Madame Clicquot, along with her cellarmaster, found a method of moving the yeast sediments left from secondary fermentation to the neck of a Champagne bottle. Riddling requires the slow turning of bottles over time until they are upside down, or sur point, with the sediment collected in the neck of the bottle. Still used today, the process allows for easy removal of the cork and sediment.

Still one of the strongest brands in the Champagne industry, Madame Veuve Clicquot was clearly ahead of her time.