It’s not easy running a diversified family business, certainly as a young widow. Try it in 1805. The widow Clicquot is one inspiring grande dame, and tonight I’ll toast 2010 with her product.
In 1772, Philippe Clicquot-Muiron established the original enterprise which in time became the house of Veuve Clicquot. His son, François Clicquot, married Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin in 1798. Clicquot died in 1805, leaving his widow (veuve in French) in control of a company variously involved in banking, wool trading, and Champagne production. Under Madame Clicquot’s guidance the firm focused entirely on the latter, 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. 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 is roughly pronounced “vuuhv klee-koh”. It holds a royal warrant of Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom.
Since 1987 the Veuve Clicquot company has been part of the Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy group of luxury brands, and today owns a controlling interest in New Zealand’s Cloudy Bay Vineyards.
Madame Clicquot 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 first (or primary) fermentation in the bottle’s neck by using a specialized 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 to encourage the secondary fermentation that gives Champagne its distinctive bubbles.
I drink V-C because I like it, (nope, no free bottles induced this blog!), and because I love to honor the memory of a tough, shrewd, pioneering businesswoman.
A votre sante!
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