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Philippe Clicquot founded Veuve Clicquot in 1772 coming from a family of bankers and textile merchants he purchased a number of vineyards and decided to establish a wine business under the family name. His vision was to sell his Champagne 'across all borders'.
In June 1798 Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin married Francois-Marie Clicquot, the son of Philippe in a secret wedding service in the cellars due to the French revolution being in full swing. Auspiciously, the priest gave the happy couple a book by Dom Pérignon. The 17th Century Monk Dom Pérignon had written about new methods of producing sparkling wine. By combining several varieties of grape into an assemblage, he was able to harness the fermentation process. He went on to use more solid, cork bottles. But the vin du diable had yet to be completely tamed. Yeast would form sticky filaments and leave a deposit that made the finished wine cloudy and spoiled its taste. But Madame Clicquot would change all that.
The Code Napoleon and bourgeois codes of behaviour forced French women to live in the shadow of their husbands. It took a woman with confidence and fair amount of grit to venture into business. Barbe-Nicole Clicquot, was one such woman, widowed at the age of 27 with a three year old daughter; she convinced her father-in-law to let her manage the business and went on to achieve iconic status among champagne buffs. The February following the death of her husband she invested 80,000 francs and went into partnership with Alexandre Fourneaux, who had mastered the art of assemblage. Unfortunately her first attempts in charge were a bit of a disaster.
Back alone and assisted by her cellar-man Antoine-Aloys de Muller, Madame Clicquot perfected the art of 'remuage' or riddling. Special racks were produced to hold the bottles at an angle and over a six to eight week period the bottles were rotated by a quarter-turn every day. The lees gradually settled in the neck of the bottle. The cork was then drawn, the sediment removed and liqueur (a mixture of still wine and sugar) added. Once this technique was perfected the champagne was crystal clear. With a few minor improvements this method is still used today.
From 1876 onwards the company bottled all the dry champagne destined for Britain with a yellow label. When Madam Clicquot died in July 1866, newspapers all over the world paid tribute to the old lady. She and her loyal assistants had conquered the world, sales had reached a staggering 750,000 bottles a year!
"Veuve Clicquot is a big house where we have a big responsibility to maintain the style, but every day we work to improve the quality." Chef de Cave, Dominique Demarville explains the production ethos behind Veuve's characterful, full-bodied, pinot-focused wines. Privileged to a respectable 382 hectare estate, with facilities to envy; including multiple foudres of 5000 and 7500 litres, the house runs a huge operation in Reims.