LA GRANDE DAME
– Candy Champagne
The Champagne Surgeon told me that one of the things she likes most about Veuve is the story of “La Grande Dame”. I couldn’t agree more – La Grande Dame was truly an exceptional and inspirational woman who was an early pioneer for businesswoman all over the world (I think the Champagne Surgeon and La Grande Dame would have got along great and probably would have had a lot of leadership traits in common).
I experienced La Grande Dame for my first time in 2003. I was fortunate enough to visit Veuve Clicquot and tour their historic chalk cellars (I have attached a picture of the stairs leading into the chalk cellar although the picture doesn’t give justice to how spectacular it was).
Who was La Grande Dame? Or the Widow Clicquot as she was also known (did you know that Veuve is French for widow?).
1772 – Veuve Clicquot started in 1772 when Phillippe Clicquot established a wine business under the family name.
1798 – His son Francois joined the business in 1798 but died of typhoid in 1805.
1805 – His widow, Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin, only 27 at the time, took on the family business and became one of the first business women of modern times.
1810 – Madame Clicquot, as she was known at the time, proved her innovative prowess by creating the first recorded vintage champagne in the region.
1814 – As she became more bold and confident in her business skills, Madame Clicquot overcame the continental embargo that raged in Europe and she managed to ship her wine to Saint Petersburg. Her champagne received a triumphant welcome in Russia and she was praised by Pushkin, Chekhov and Gogol.
1816 – Madame Clicquot invented the first riddling table which makes it possible to ensure crystal clear wine. This process continues to be used today. From then on, the house goes from strength to strength. Madame Cliquot becomes known to her peers as “La Grande Dame” of Champagne.
1972 – To mark its bicentenary, Veuve Clicquot launched the first La Grande Dame vintage champagne. To this day, it is Veuve Clicquot’s most prestigious vintage champagne.
La Grande Dame (vintage 2004) is described as “luminous, sparkling gold with amber highlights. The first nose reveals a definite mineral base with noble fruit and remarkable intensity. The bouquet is gourmand and voluptuous with hints of apricot, vanilla, frangipane and jasmine”. Alison Napjus gave it 94 points.
In 1972, the Veuve Clicquot Business Woman Award was launched to honour outstanding business women around the world. The award pays tribute to the first among them, Madame Clicquot, who established herself as a leading female figure in the business world. Since its inception, the award has been presented to over 340 women in 29 countries.
La Grande Dame would have been so proud!