Last time I’ve left you in Epernay, while we were visiting the caves of Moët et Chandon. We continued our Champagne journey by driving back to Reims and passing through the breathtaking views of the Champagne vineyards. In this part of the journey, we will look back to the visit in Veuve Clicquot, one of the strongest brands come to mind when talking about Champagne.
Here we are on the entrance of Veuve Clicquot, on our right it’s the Parc de Champagne (which we will go later) and on our left is where the historical caves of this champagne house is situated.
Before we start visiting the winery, let’s refresh our memories on their history. Clicquot champagne house was founded in 1772 – I’ve already made the calculation for you, it was exactly 247 years ago. Not until 1805 Madame Clicquot take over the business. With the death of the founder’s son, she became a widow at the age of 27. She was probably not the only widow by then, but definitely became one of the first international businesswomen of her time. Her success grew year by year, as she was working in the production, as well as on sales, was opening new markets to export, such as Russia. Her hands-on approach in production made her not only know her product very well, but also to create innovative techniques, such as usage of riddling table, and different styles of Champagne, such as rosé blending.
Let’s start the visit and continue the story as we move. Visit of the cellars started in front of this door, which opens up to a long stairway down to caves. This door opens down to the “crayères”, chalk cellars. Listed as Unesco World Heritage in 2015, these cellars were used for different purposes over the centuries.
As we walk through the cellars, of course only a small part of this incredibly long network, I was surprised to learn they even found some marks on the wall written by refugees of the First World War. Without the sunlight, but far from the eyes, it was a very good option for those who was searching for protection and health care from the infirmary located in this underground world. (Note to myself: Read the book called “Champagne: How the World’s Most Glamorous Wine Triumphed Over War and Hard Times” by Don Kladstrup and Petie Kladstrup)
During our walk, we also had chance to see a barrel used for one of the Comet wines: The one for famous vintage 1811, noted in the history as an exceptional quality harvest, coinciding with the appearance of the Great Comet of 1811.
For the readers from Canada, it might be interesting to note that the first time Veuve Clicquot shipped Champagne to Canada was in 1855, when 25 cases of Champagne arrived each to Montreal and to Quebec.
These crayères continues to be a great place for the aging of the Champagne, thanks to the temperature and humidity control provided naturally. We have also seen some riddling tables, still used for some larger size Champagne bottles, which were not mechanized.
After walking around the caves I felt like I was walking in the past. The famous stairs of grand vintages of Veuve Clicquot made me climb step by step to our actual vintage. Of course, I had a special stop in my birth year – which I’ve heard it to be an excellent vintage for Champagne!
After climbing the grand vintage stairway, it is necessary to pass from a tunnel to arrive to the main building, this passage made me feel like walking out of a time machine. It also made me realize that this brand is so successful to keep the tradition, but also keeping updated with the technology and new trends to survive in the fast changing conditions of new millennium.
To finish the tour, we tasted 2 Champagnes of the house, one of them I know very well – the classic yellow label of Veuve Clicquot and the other one is the La Grande Dame, vintage 2006 which I was very excited to taste.
La Grande Dame 2006 is a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, percentages being 53% and 47% respectively, and has 8 g/l of final dosage. Firstly, the tiny and determined bottles amazed me in the glass, shining like small diamonds with the sunlight passing through them. My appreciation increase through the nose and the palate. It was worth all my excitement.
Of course, the vineyards are not situated anywhere near to these cellars, but in the garden in front of the tasting area, there were couple of rows with the main varieties produced in Champagne, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Meunier. Finishing my glass of La Grande Dame through this lovely garden and I’ve realized how I appreciate even more this product after visiting where everything has started centuries ago.
Champagne photo diary will continue…
All images © 2019 by Neslihan IVIT. All rights reserved.