Today’s Story: Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin
Veuve Clicquot is a large, well-known Champagne house established in Champagne, France in 1772 by Philippe Clicquot. In 1805, the house was taken over by perhaps one of (in hindsight) the most famous personalities of Champagne: Madame Clicquot, who was the widow of Philippe’s son François. Thanks to a great education and noble birth, Madame Clicquot quickly demonstrated her business prowess by creating the first-ever recorded vintage Champagne in 1810 and in 1814 triumphed over a European trade embargo by shipping her wine to Russia. In 1816, the Madame invented the riddling table which produces clear Champagnes and she became known as “La Grande Dame” of the region (which happens to be the name of the house’s highest end bottling today). She did not stop here, however, introducing the first rosé d’assemblage in 1818 by blending red wines instead of elderberry solutions. Though Madame Clicquot passed away in 1866, the house continued to rise in stature and, in 1877, trademarked their signature yellow label that stands out in any grocery store or wine shop today.
Veuve Clicquot continued to grow and adapt over the following decades, constantly improving their winemaking methods and modernizing their tools. By the house’s 200th anniversary in 1972, they were one of the most recognizable Champagne brands and introduced the top bottling of La Grande Dame. The house was later acquired by Louis Vuitton in 1986 (became LVMH, or Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, in 1987) and continued to grow, with the next breakthrough in 2004 with the release of their NV Rosé. While a very large house, Veuve Clicquot is still instantly recognizable and can be depended on for its consistent quality from vintage to vintage and non-vintage from year to year.
Today, the Clicquot vineyards consist of 390 hectares of which 86% are situated across 12 of the 17 Grand Crus and 20 of the 44 1er Crus of the Champagne region. In terms of the vines themselves, 47% are planted to Chardonnay, 36% to Pinot Noir, and 17% to Pinot Meunier with all farmed adhering to sustainable practices and zero use of herbicides.
For more, check out the incredibly extensive Veuve Clicquot website here. At the very least, I highly recommend reading through the details of harvest and winemaking here, which are too great for me to do them any justice.
Today’s Wine: 2012 Brut Champagne
51% Pinot Noir, 34% Chardonnay, 15% Meunier; 12% ABV
The 2012 Brut Champagne is transparent to medium gold in color with deep gold variation along the edges of the glass. Beautifully effervescent in the glass, the wine emits aromas of ripe green apple, pear, white peach, stone fruit, white florals, brioche, and dried vanilla. Moving onto the palate, this displays notes of lemon and lime zest, green apple skins, peach, chalk, light green herbs, slight earth, toasted almond, and lees. This is a very linear and precise bottle of Champagne while being medium-bodied and offering vibrant high acidity into a crisp medium (+) length finish.
Price: $85. I think this is pretty fairly priced for a vintage Champagne compared to some of the other large Champagne houses, however I must say it gets beaten by a number of grower Champagne producers I’ve tried over the years. Even the standard NV yellow label isn’t too terribly far behind this vintage bottling, missing out largely on focus and depth. Regardless, Clicquot always gives you exactly what you expect with great consistency, so take that how you will.