Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

  • About

Champagne house as famous for its eponymous founder, the first great champagne widow (veuve in French), as for its wines. Nicole Barbe Ponsardin (1777–1866) married François Clicquot, the son of the house’s founder, in 1798. After the premature death of her husband in 1805, the 27 year-old widow took over the reins of the company, which she renamed Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin. Despite her youth, she steered the house carefully through the turbulent years of the First and Second Empires, defying Napoleon’s blockades to ship the wine to Russia, and finding an export market in virtually every European court. ‘La grande dame de la Champagne’ is credited with inventing the riddling process called remuage, and adapting a piece of her own furniture into the first riddling table for that purpose. In 1818, she was first to elaborate a rosé champagne by addition of red wine from Bouzy. On her death, the company passed to her former chief partner, another shrewd operator, Édouard Werlé who introduced the famous yellow label, still used for the non-vintage wine, and the house remained in the hands of the Werlé family until in 1987 it became part of the Moët Hennessy-Louis Vuitton group (see lvmh). The house style is based on Pinot Noir grapes and, in particular, those grown at Bouzy, where the house has large holdings. La Grande Dame is Clicquot’s prestige cuvée, named, of course, after the widow. In 1990, the Champagne house purchased a majority stake in the western australian winery Cape Mentelle and its New Zealand subsidiary cloudy bay, completing the purchase in 2000.