Breaking the Boundaries
A tribute to an inspiring leader ahead of her time who revolutionized the world of champagne through her namesake brand, Veuve Clicquot
By Hesikios Kevin
Champagne had been a male-dominated industry throughout its illustrious history. However, there was also a notable woman who had left an indelible mark in the wine industry. Her name was Madame Barbe-Nicole Clicquot Ponsardin. The French woman started her wine business from the ground up and refined winemaking in the process. With her tireless efforts and forward-thinking innovation, Veuve Clicquot, veuve means widow in French, became the most sought-after wine brand in the market today.
Madame Clicquot Ponsardin was born and raised in a warm, familial environment as the daughter of affluent textile industrialist Baron Nicolas Ponsardin. She was well-educated before tying the knot in 1798 to François Clicquot, the son of Maison Clicquot’s founder. During the seven years of a happy marriage, she spent her time assisting her husband and learning the winemaking process and distribution. In October 1805, François died of fever at the age of 30 and left the 27 years old Madame Cliquot as well as his six children.
As a wealthy, aristocratic French widow, she would have been expected to devote her life to rising her children. The idea of a woman of her status working would have been completely unthinkable, so her decision to take over her husband’s business was considered a bold move.
This was also a period when women were legally considered as minor and were under the responsibility of their father until they were married. They weren’t even allowed to hold bank account, let alone make personal decisions about money.
Her father-in-law, Veuve Clicquot founder Philippe Clicquot was devastated at his son’s passing and set about selling the company. Madame Clicquot therefore had to prove that not only that she could take on the business, but that he should invest to help her do so.
Despite doubts from society, she boldly continued the legacy of Maison Clicquot and became the first women who ran an international business in the 19th century who dared to break the traditional norm of what the French in that era expected of women.
Within five years, she brought the dying wine business back to life and changed its name to Veuve Clicquot-Ponsardin. Turning any obstacles into a precious business experience, she invented the table de remuage (riddling table) technique to clarify champagne. The method is still used today to produce the clearest and best wines.
Among many other achievements, the widow was also the first to create a rosé champagne blend in 1818. This revolutionary technique of producing rosé champagne consists of blending red grapes and white grapes together. Up until then white wine had been colored with berries to give it its unique pink hues.
With such outstanding accomplishments, Madame Clicquot Ponsardin was crowned as the “Grande Dame of Champagne” to honour her exceptional innovation and abilities. Thanks to her passion for champagne, today, the Maison maintains its quality as remarkably balanced and uniquely aromatic champagne.
As her revolutionary leadership broke past the era’s status quo and paved the way for more women to be active in the wine world, Veuve Clicquot also celebrates and honours a community of bold women through the Veuve Clicquot Bold Woman Award, which comprises of two main categories: The Bold Woman Award and the Bold Future Award.
First created in 1972, the event is the first and longest-running international award of its kind and has so far honoured 350 women worldwide. Some of the winners include Founder & CEO of Oh My Cream, Juliette Levy, Managing Director of the Selfridges Group, Anne Pitcher, co-founder of sustainable period care brand and co-creator of the world’s first reusable tampon applicator DAME, Celia Pool, South Korean film producer, Jae Myung Shim and other winners around the globe that you can see from the list here.
For its 49th annual event this year, the Bold Woman Award features Maria Raga, the Chief Executive of the pre-loved fashion platform Depop, Oxford vaccine developer Professor Sarah Gilbert and Royal College of Nursing Chief Executive Dame Donna Kinnair, who represents more than 450,000 nurses, on the main award shortlist. Meanwhile, the Bold Future Award, which celebrates female entrepreneurship and up-and-coming leaders of the future, features Founder of beauty professionals marketplace Beautystack, Sharmadean Reid, Ebinehita Iyere, founder of Milk Honey Bees and co-founder of Young Foodies Group, Theadora Alexander.
Living by the motto: “Only one quality, the finest”, Veuve Cliquot always strives to celebrate the successes of women around the world and continue inspiring future entrepreneurs to dare to be bold, just as Madame Clicquot.
The Veuve Clicquot limited edition is available at Cellardoor.id.