Our local library has an ongoing sale of used books, and one in particular seized my attention. It was a biography of Barbe-Nicole Clicquot Ponsardin. Champagne aficionados know her as La Veuve (The Widow), La Grande Dame and Veuve Clicquot. I have enjoyed more than a few bottles of her sparkling wine, however, I knew nothing about the person behind the famous yellow/orange label. Who was she? How did she get into the champagne business? What was her secret to success?
In 1797 she married Francois-Marie Clicquot, son of another affluent textile merchant. Francois’ father owned a sideline wine distribution business named Clicquot-Muiron that he founded in 1772. Francois and Barge-Nicole took it over in 1802 to pursue their dream of not merely distributing wines, but also producing and selling their own.
Undaunted, she recapitalized the firm in 1806 as Veuve Clicquot Fourneaux with investments from Francois’ father and Jerome Fourneaux. The dream stalled again when that unprofitable entity terminated four years later. Still feeling the entrepreneurial spirit, and aided an additional investment from her father in law, she reformed it in 1810 as Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin and Company.
Following on with the success of
Moët and Chandon, their stable mate at LMVH.