Monday, March 21, 2011

Veuve Clicquot: A Great Story of Triumph for Women

Imagine this scenario. You've been married for seven years, a young wife at 27 years of age. Suddenly, your husband passes away. You are now a widow, or "veuve" in French.

What would you do? One would obviously be devastated, and of course there would be a necessary period of mourning. Would you struggle to get out of bed on a daily basis? Would you somehow find the inner strength you need to try and move on?

Barbe Nicole Ponsardin was in this same situation back in 1805 when her husband passed away. Fortunately, she made the choice to take over the family business. This decision ended up being such a great decision as she would bring the world one of the most prominent champagnes well recognized everywhere!

Veuve Cliquot Ponsardin's grapes are grown over 382 hectares in the vineyards surrounding Reims, France-the 2nd largest vineyard in the Champagne area. Of the total grapes they grow, 39% is Pinot Noir grapes, 46% is Chardonnay, and 15% are Pinot Meunier. Veuve Cliquot prides themselves on having a 97% vineyard rating based on the echelle des crus, a classification system for vineyard quality in Champagne. You can taste the quality in their bottles! The grapes are harvested only when the perfect balance between sugar & acidity in the grapes is reached. Harvesting is done by hand and the different grape varieties remain separated until the blending process. Veuve Cliquot presses 2550 litres of juice from 4,000kg of grapes. The first
2,050 litres are called the cuvee and the last 500 litres are called the taille. Fermentation then takes place in stainless steel vats. Blending then takes place to maintain the house flavors and quality. The wine is bottled and sugar and yeast are added for secondary fermentation. Veuve Cliquot ages their bottles in their cellars in Reims for no less than 15 months as part of the Champagne A.O.C. regulations. The bottles are laid in riddling racks (shown below) that were actually invented by the house to make the process of disgorging (removing the sediment in secondary fermentation) easier.

The bottles are turned and tilted slightly to move the sediment to the neck of the bottle. When the aging process is complete, the sediment will be frozen and the pressure inside the bottle will literally push it out when the cap is removed. After a small amount of sweetened liquor is added to the champagne, the bottles are corked and wired, they are laid down on their side in the cellars to further develop flavor before being labelled and packed up for shipping.

My husband and I were fortunate enough to get the chance to visit this prestigious champagne house in mid-March. We were given the chance to see the cellars, learn their history and taste a few of the champagnes as well. We tasted the yellow label and the 2002 vintage, which I found light, lovely, and really easy to drink! Needless to say, there is a bottle of the yellow label in our house now too!
If you ever find yourself in Reims, it is well worth the visit and if you decide to spend the 75 euro on the tour, I hope you get Melissa Gaillard as your guide. She is very knowledgeable and passionate about the house and friendly. Tours must be booked in advance by calling the house or email: visitscenter@veuve-clicquot.fr

Veuve Cliquot has become one of the most recognized champagnes throughout the world. It has become so popular, in fact, that Veuve now owns the legendary color of their label. Melissa showed us on the tour false replicates of other bottles that have been found all over the world, including Mexico. When you go to their website,
www.veuve-cliquot.com, they mention a hoax promotion that is being offered for a free case of their champagne. To me, that speaks volumes of the quality and reputation that Veuve Cliquot maintains all over the world. After all, imitation is the best form of flattery, n'est-ce pas?

One of the things I love best about Veuve Cliquot (outside of the taste & quality of course!) is what they do for women. It's a tough life for a woman, working in a predominantly men's world. I experience this first-hand every day as I work with all men in the aviation industry. Veuve Cliquot hands out Businesswoman of the Year awards every year to outstanding businesswomen who embody the values of Madame Cliquot. Sixteen winners will be crowned for each of the countries that participate in the award, and the winners receive a trip to Reims to christen a vine in their own names, one each, at the International Business Woman Forum! On top of that, on their birthday every year of their life they will receive a bottle of a champagne from that vine. Amazing! Although internet rumors insist there is a jinx or curse on winning the award, I think it's great to see recognition of successful women on a worldwide scale.

Veuve Cliquot, je l'aime!

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