|Founded||1772 (246 years ago)|
12, Rue du Temple|
|Jean-Marc Gallot (President), Jean Marc Lacave (former President)|
|Revenue||€1.2 billion (2012)|
Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin (French pronunciation: [vœv kliko pɔ̃saʁdɛ̃]) is a French Champagne house based in Reims, specializing in premium products. Founded in 1772 by Philippe Clicquot-Muiron, Veuve Clicquot played an important role in establishing champagne as a favored drink of haute bourgeoisie and nobility throughout Europe. The 1811 comet vintage of Veuve Clicquot is theorized to have been the first truly "modern" Champagne due to the advancements in the méthode champenoise which Veuve Clicquot pioneered through the technique of remuage.
Philippe Clicquot was a textile merchant, a banker and an owner of vineyards in the Champagne country. In 1772, he established a wine business He soon expanded his clientele. His annual shipments varied between 4,000 bottles a year to 6-7,000 bottles in a good year. However, he kept the primary business focus on textiles.
Philippe Clicquot ran a successful textile business, so did Nicolas Ponsardin. In an attempt to consolidate the power of their two businesses, Mr. Ponsardin and Mr. Clicquot arranged a wedding between their children, which was common at the time.
François Clicquot died in 1805, leaving his widow (veuve in French) in control of a company variously involved in banking, wool trading, and Champagne production. She became the first woman to take over a Champagne house. Under Madame Clicquot's guidance, the firm focused entirely on the last, to great success.
During the Napoleonic Wars, Madame Clicquot made strides in establishing her wine in royal courts throughout Europe, notably that of Imperial Russia, thus becoming the first Champagne house to ship Champagne through the blockade to Russia in 1811. During this time, she also gave Champagne to the Prussian guards enforcing the blockade and the soldiers opened the champagne with their swords, so started the technique of sabring Champagne. By the time she died in 1866 Veuve Clicquot had become both a substantial Champagne house and a respected brand. Easily recognised by its distinctive bright yellow labels, the wine holds a royal warrant from Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom.
During the World War I, the Veuve Clicquot cellars sheltered over one thousand company staff and civilians in the war-torn champagne region from bombardments. Cellars housed a hospital and a chapel. Even short plays were put on in these premises. Today Red Cross signs on the damp chalk walls still indicate the infirmary and shelter area.
In 1932, Bertrand de Mun was joined by his son-in-law Bertrand de Vogüé. Long before the law required it, they offered benefits to their employees: holidays, pensions, healthcare, sports fields and recreation areas. As a result, the company never suffered stoppage during the strikes that hit France in 1936.
The oldest parts of the Veuve Clicquot cellars (the "crayères") were originally chalk-pits (chalk quarries). The Veuve Clicquot "crayères" are medieval and lie about 55-65 feet underground. Placed end-to-end, they would extend over more than 12 miles. The chalk walls ensure constant temperature (about 48 °F) and humidity for aging wine. At the beginning of the 20th century the house commissioned artist André Navlet to design reliefs on the cellar walls.
The first vineyards were owned by Philippe Clicquot near Verzy and Vernezay. The second group of vineyards was the "Bouzy holding" inherited by François Clicquot from his grandmother Muiron in 1804. These two vineyards were enlarged by purchases made by Madame Clicquot. She thus became proprietor of 99 acres (40 ha) of high-quality vines around Bouzy, Vernezay and Verzy.
Between 1872 and 1873, Alfred Werlé acquired 99 acres (40 ha) at Le Mesnil and enlarged the Bouzy vineyards by 30 acres (12 ha). In a single year, he doubled the vineyard holdings that the company had amassed over a century. Alfred stepped up his acquisition program in 1884, buying a total of 123 acres (50 ha). He also bought Duchesse d'Uzès's vineyards to return the vines she had inherited from Madame Clicquot into the company's ownership.
The house now owns 971 acres (393 ha) of vineyards, with an average rating of 71% on the "échelle des crus". Fifty-five percent of Veuve Clicquot’s vineyards are categorized as Grand Cru and 40% are Premier Cru. The vineyard is planted with 50% Chardonnay, 45% Pinot Noir and 5% Meunier.
Modernisation of production
The natural sparkle is created by the sugar and yeast present in the grape. The interaction between these two elements creates carbon dioxide with varying quantities of bubbles. In the 19th century, neither sugar nor yeast was added to the finished blend to trigger a second fermentation. There was only one fermentation, and not two, as is practiced in modern champagne making. The result was an unpredictable sparkle, with fermentation sometimes continuing even after the wine had been shipped.
The yeast dies after digesting all the sugar, leaving sediments in the bottle and making the wine looking cloudy. To clarify it, champagne producers traditionally poured the wine from one bottle to another. However, this process was time-consuming and wasteful as it damaged the wine through the constant agitation.
Madame Clicquot studied this issue to find a solution. She is credited with a great breakthrough in champagne handling that made mass production of the wine possible. In the early 19th century, with the assistance of her cellar master, Antoine de Müller, Clicquot invented the riddling rack that made the crucial process of dégorgement both more efficient and economic. Clicquot's advance involved systematically collecting the spent yeast and sediments left from the wine's secondary fermentation in the bottle's neck by using a specialised rack.
Composed much like a wooden desk with circular holes, the rack allowed a bottle of wine to be stuck sur point or upside down. Every day a cellar assistant would gently shake and twist (remuage) the bottle to encourage wine solids to settle to the bottom. When this was completed, the cork was carefully removed, the sediments ejected, and a small replacement dose of sweetened wine added.
In July 2008 an unopened bottle of Veuve Clicquot was discovered inside a sideboard in Torosay Castle, Isle of Mull, Scotland. The 1893 bottle was in mint condition, having been kept in the dark, and was the oldest bottle known to exist. It is now on display at the Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin visitor centre in Reims and is regarded as priceless.
In 1987, an expedition, licensed by the Michigan Department of State and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and headed by underwater archaeologist E. Lee Spence, recovered a number of cases of Veuve Clicquot (Yellow Label, Dry) Champagne from the 9 November 1913 shipwreck of the Canadian steamer Regina in Lake Huron, off Port Sanilac, Michigan. Spence afterwards described the still sparkling Champagne as "quite dark in color but as having an excellent taste." The shipwreck site is located in approximately 83 feet of water at latitude 43°20.24′ North, longitude 82°26.76′ West. The water temperatures at the wreck site range from 1°-18 °C (35 °F. to 65 °F).
In July 2010, a group of Finnish divers found 168 bottles of champagne beneath the Baltic Sea off the coast of the Åland Islands. Bottles were sent back to France for analysis. Ninety-nine of them were identified as Juglar, forty-six as Veuve Clicquot, and at least four as Heidsieck.
Chemical analysis showed levels of sugar (150 g/L) much higher than modern champagne (more than most Sauternes), compared to today’s champagnes which are generally between 6 to 10g per litre. This high sugar content was characteristic of people’s tastes at the time, especially the Russian market known for its preference for sweeter wines.
It also had much higher levels of salt, iron, lead, copper, and arsenic compared with modern vintages. It is believed the arsenic and copper originated from antiquated pesticide (Bordeaux mixture) applied to the grapes. The iron probably came from nails used in the wine barrels, and the lead leached from brass valve fittings of the winemaking equipment. Modern champagne producers begin with wine from stainless steel barrels, yielding lower iron and lead levels.
On 17 November 2010, the local government of the Åland Islands announced that most of the bottles were to be auctioned off. A bottle of nearly 200-year-old Veuve Clicquot broke the record for the most expensive champagne ever sold. In 2011, a bidder paid €30,000 for one of them found in the Baltic Sea.
As a result, in 2014, the house submerged 300 bottles and 50 magnums of its champagne at the exact location of the wreck to study whether it matures differently from on land. It will be resurfaced in 40 years and compared with another set of champagne aged underground at the same depth.
In popular culture
Many 19th-century Russian novels used the term "klikoskoïe" as a synonym for high-class champagne. The brand is mentioned in works by Alexander Pushkin, Leo Tolstoy, Anton Chekhov, and many other authors.
- List of Champagne houses
- Louis Bohne, sales agent for Veuve Clicquot
- Mireille Guiliano, former spokesperson, co-founder and CEO of Clicquot, Inc. in the US
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- = Sabre Champagne =
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