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Friday, February 18, 2011

A Pioneer in Champagne

I just finished a fantastic book by Tilar Mazzeo, The Widow Clicquot: The Story of a Champagne Empire and the Woman Who Ruled It.  The book was entertaining and informative and a must-read for anyone who loves Champagne.

The Widow Clicquot: The Story of a Champagne Empire and The Woman Who Ruled, It by Tilar Mazzeo,  accompanied by a bottle of Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Yellow Label Brut NV

Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin, my favorite Champagne producer, rose to greatness under Barbe-Nicole Clicquot Ponsardin in the years following her husband’s death.  The winery came to her through marriage to Francois Clicquot, and at the time, Madame Clicquot was only 27 years old and the winery was quite small, but her natural ability with business and her talent with winemaking, and above all, her strength even in times of desperation and nearly insurmountable challenges brought her winery to great success.
Madame Clicquot is credited with the development of “riddling.”  When the bottled Champagne has aged, the sediment must be accumulated and removed.  At this time, the bottles are placed on racks with angled holes in them, with the cork facing downward.  The bottles are regularly turned and shaken and the sediment continues to accumulate in the neck of the bottle.  This process, known as riddling, was developed by Madame Clicquot for a more efficient way of removing the sediment from the bottles of sparkling wine.  Today, only Prestige Cuvees of Champagne are made with manual riddling, and the rest are made using a mechanized riddling.  The development of this process is what placed Veuve Clicquot ahead of the competition in producing and consequently in reaching the consumers.
The Widow Clicquot is a woman to be admired, not just for her business savvy and for defying the odds during a tumultuous time for France, and as a woman guiding a large and important business in what was still a men’s world, but also for her generosity with her family and the people of Reims.  Behind the sharp woman of business was a kind hearted lady.
Barbe-Nicole Clicquot Ponsardin truly paved the way for other women to play a major role not just in the wine industry but in all areas of business, and for that, many of us are forever grateful.
As for the lovely sparkling wine of Veuve Clicquot, from the radiant and affordable Yellow Label Brut NV to the extraordinary La Grand Dame, the Champagne of Veuve Clicquot is spectacular.
Yellow Label Brut NV is a regular around our house.  A very pale sparkling gold in color, the wine displays characteristics of white fruits and green apples and a bit of sweetness, with hints of slight smokiness, excellent balance, a clean texture with such fine bubbles and assertive presence, with a long and wonderful finish - it’s all that a Champagne should be.  My favorite pairings are brie with lingonberry dressing, fresh crabmeat, and chilled lobster.
So, the next time you toast with a flute of Veuve Clicquot, please remember the lady who made it all possible.

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