I left you in Épernay, 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. Now, it’s time to visit Veuve Clicquot, one of the strongest brands that comes to mind when talking about Champagne.
Here we are at the entrance of Veuve Clicquot, on our right it’s the Parc de Champagne 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 the history of this maison. Clicquot champagne house was founded in 1772, two hundred forty seven years ago. Not until 1805 Madame Clicquot took over the business. With the death of her husband, she became a widow at the age of twenty seven. She was not the first widow in history, but she 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, and 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 tables, and different styles of Champagne, such as rosé blending. She’s an inspiration until today for the women in the wine business.
Let’s begin the visit and continue the story as we move. We are in front of a wooden door, which opens up to a long stairway down to chalk caves/cellars, also known as “crayères”. Listed as Unesco World Heritage in 2015, these cellars were used for different purposes over the centuries.
We walk through a small part of the incredibly long network of cellars. On the walls, some marks written by refugees of the First World War are still visible. This underground world, without the sunlight and far from the eyes, was a very good option for those who were searching for protection and health care from the infirmary.
During our walk, we 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 champagne lovers from Canada, it might be interesting to know that the first time Veuve Clicquot shipped Champagne to Canada was in 1855, when twenty five cases of Champagne arrived each to Montreal and to Quebec.
Even today these crayères continue to be a great place for the aging of the Champagne, thanks to the temperature and humidity control provided naturally. Another method still used until today is the remouage on riddling table, especially for one larger size Champagne bottles that are preferred to be not mechanized.
Walking around the caves gives a feeling of walking in the past. We climbed the famous stairs of the grand vintages of Veuve Clicquot, passed the years step by step to arrive at our actual vintage. All the visitors are trying to find their birthday vintage. I’m lucky that mine was an excellent vintage for Champagne, 1988.
After climbing the grand vintage stairway, we pass from a tunnel to arrive at the main building. This feels like a time machine, after visiting all the historical areas we’re back in 2017. Veuve Clicquot is a brand that does a great job in keeping the tradition, but also keeping updated with the technology and new trends to survive in the fast changing conditions of the new millennium.
To finish the tour, we tasted two Champagnes of the house, the classic yellow label of Veuve Clicquot and the other one is the La Grande Dame, vintage 2006. 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 amazes in the glass, shining like small diamonds with the sunlight passing through them. The appreciation continues through the nose and increases on the palate. It’s worth all the excitement.
The vineyards are not situated anywhere near to these cellars, but in the garden in front of the tasting area, there were a couple of rows with the main varieties produced in Champagne, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Meunier. We enjoy La Grande Dame through this lovely garden, thinking about Veuve Clicquot, and how proud she would have been if she was alive to see the success of her maison continue her legacy.
All images © 2019 by Wines of Nesli. All rights reserved.