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“Veuve Clicquot is a wine that is always dominated by the structure, aromas and body of Pinot Noir.”
For this it is necessary to thank the energetic Nicole-Barbe Clicquot (1777–1866), née Ponsardin, better known as Veuve Clicquot. Demarville speaks of this Grande Dame of Champagne with reverence. “In the 19th century success came to those champagne houses that had excellent vineyards and a worldwide distribution,” explains Demarville. In that respect, nothing has changed to this day.
Above all else, Madame Clicquot was an innovator: she not only brought the first Rosé Champagne to the market, but also had the idea of designing a very special device.
Around 1800, the purification of the wines posed a serious problem after the second fermentation; the champagne had to be transferred repeatedly from one bottle to the next. “In the wine there is a kind of distinct, fine sediment. In spite of every precautionary measure I fear that it is impossible for me to send anything other than this wine with the aforementioned fine sediment,” wrote Madame Clicquot to a customer.
The problem caused much racking of brains. The story goes that the widow would clamber down to the cellar, at night and in secret, to work on a solution with her cellar master Antoine Müller. By 1816, after a great deal of experimentation, they had constructed the first riddling table, designed to dislodge the sediment from the bottles. In1818 this method was refined: inclined holes were drilled into the table so that for the first time the bottles could be placed, neck-down, at different angles. This technical breakthrough boosted sales: Moscow, Venice, Buenos Aires... the triumphal march of the champagne around the world soon followed.
In the 19th century in Berlin, for example, champagne of this kind was so popular, “that one hardly dared to cough in the street for fear of spitting in the face of a champagne salesman.” Such was the colourful description of this period by Ludwig Bohne, representative of Veuve Clicquot. Bohne was esteemed a most successful salesman and likewise - with good reason - was Friedrich Wilhelm IV (1795–1861), the stubborn Prussian, named König Clicquot (King Clicquot) by his entourage. The Widow, in fact, was to outlive King Clicquot by four years. In the meantime, Champagne Veuve Clicquot itself is two-hundred and thirty-eight years old. How many cellar masters have there been in this period? Dominique Demarville is only the tenth. This figure alone testifies to the art and integrity of champagne in general and the Yellow Label in particular.
2012 was deemed one of the best vintages the Champagne region has ever experienced. “The quality and the intensity are definitely there to make an outstanding vintage,” Dom Perignon chef de cave Richard Geoffroy told Decanter. The base wines show a lovely richness as well as the acidity needed to make outstanding and long-lived Champagnes. Yields are very low, in some places half of the allowed production.