If you remember the film Casablanca, you’ll recall how Captain Renault suggested Veuve Clicquot Champagne 1926 for Major Strasser. This legendary winemaker has earned its place in the pop culture annals of history. Keep reading to learn more about one of France’s top winemakers.
History of Veuve Clicquot
Since its establishment in 1772, Veuve Clicquot has been one of the most successful and popular champagne producers. Founded by Philippe Clicquot, a fabric merchant, it quickly became one of the most prestigious champagne houses.
Veuve (see also: Veuve Clicquot Brut Réserve Cuvée)Clicquot endured two centuries of turmoil through important national events in France. The company witnessed the French Revolution, Napoleon’s defeat, and World War One. However, none of this stopped Philipp Cliquot’s wife, Madame Clicquot, from making the first known vintage champagne in 1810.
Madame Clicquot’s Accomplishments
In 1814, Veuve Clicquot (see also: Veuve Clicquot Demi-Sec Champagne)used one of the first labels for champagne bottles. However, the distinctive and famous yellow label began appearing on bottles in 1876 to distinguish dry champagnes from sweetened ones.
In 1818, Madame Clicquot combined red and white wines to make the world’s first Rosé Champagne.
Madame Clicquot – who would become known as the Grande Dame of Champagne – also discovered the process of remuage. As you might recall, Champagne is traditionally made via the Méthode Champenoise. During this process, the yeast dies off after it digests all the sugar, leaving sediment in the bottle. The sediment can make for a cloudy outlook. However, the remuage process riddles the wine and returns it to its crystal-clear natural state.
The Historic Importance of Veuve Clicquot
Russians used to adore Madame Clicquot’s sweet champagne, a sugary beverage containing twice the sugar of today’s alcoholic drinks. After the restoration of peace in Europe, European courts would toast Napoleon Bonaparte’s exile to Elba Island with Veuve Clicquot. As soon as the news reached St. Petersburg, the Grand Duke declared Veuve Clicquot an exclusive brand he couldn’t live without. This declaration no doubt delighted his royal party guests.
During World War I, Veuve Clicquot’s (see also: Veuve Clicquot Rose Champagne)cellars in the Champagne region were a haven for over one thousand civilians amid wartime bombardments. They housed a makeshift hospital, chapel-even theater productions! Nearly every building suffered damage during the conflict, and post-WWI reconstruction efforts gradually restored all structures.
Madame Clicquot’s business success helped her turn a small start-up into one of France’s most successful Champagne Houses. She was considered one of the world’s first international businesswomen. With this accomplishment under her belt, she continued to grow until sales reached 750,000 bottles per year before she tragically passed away.
An Unexpected Discovery
In 2008, the owner of Castle Torosay on the Isle of Mull in Scotland found a bottle of Veuve Clicquot Champagne in a locked sideboard cabinet. This bottle that had been untouched for over 200 years had likely spent most of its life hidden away from light or air and was still in pristine condition upon discovery. It is now on display at the visitor center for Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin in Reims, where it wine connoisseurs can visit and admire it.
Keys to Veuve Clicquot’s Success
When planting their vineyards around their Champagne House, the founders did so only when it was on land that would later be classified on the échelle des crus (grand cru classification). As such, 55% of Veuve Clicquot’s vines are now grand cru and 40% premier cru. Of those vineyards, 50% were planted with Chardonnay grapes to produce still white wine, 45% Pinot Noir, and 5% Pinot Meunier for red wine. In addition, they buy grapes from 400 different suppliers.
In 2014, the firm received a sustainable accreditation and began growing grass in the vineyards to fight with the grapes for sunshine and nutrients. They have less nitrogen available for wine production now that they have grass.
The Veuve Clicquot cellars lay deep below the ground, some of them at least 60 feet underground. If you were to put them end-to-end, it would stretch for up to 12miles without interruption. It’s an endless supply of cellar space for storing wine.
Today, their wine is incredibly expensive. For instance, Veuve Clicquot Champagne from 2010 was recovered from depths down to 165 meters beneath the sea and sold at auction for tens of thousands of euros.
Madame Clicquot’s Legacy
Of the 11 winemakers that create these special wines, four are women – a surprisingly high number considering the wine industry’s history (see also: A Beginner’s Guide To The History Of Wine)as a male-dominated industry. They’ve grown their related product line as fast as the industry has grown.
We will take you through a journey of the different kinds of reserve wine they produce and try to discover the art of Champagne. We look at their La Grande Dame – an ode to Madame Clicquot and her many followers – and their Rich Collection, the first Champagne made specifically for ice and fresh ingredients. We’ll also explore Cave Privée Premium Vintages, many of which have been tucked away in the prestigious Veuve Clicquot Cellars for years, and the history of its Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label.