As a challenger law firm, we have an enormous amount of respect for other challengers, innovators, and those people who are brave enough to take industries forward. In this series, we will celebrate these people and their achievements.
Our first pioneer is Barbe Nicole Clicquot-Ponsardin, the widow who gave us the iconic champagne brand, Veuve Clicquot.
Madame Clicquot entered the industry at a time when women still lived in the shadow of their husbands. Born in 1777 and widowed at the age of 27, she triumphed over these adversities to shape the way the champagne industry looked forever. Here’s how…
Along with her team, Clicquot pioneered a technique called ‘remuage’, or ‘riddling’. Bottles were held at an angle, in special racks, and rotated a quarter turn each day for 6-8 weeks so that the lees gradually settled in the neck of the bottle. The cork was then drawn and sediment could be removed. Once this technique was perfected, the champagne was crystal clear. With the exception of a few small changes – it is the same technique used today.
In the summer of 1812, one of Clicquot’s major consumers, Russia, placed an embargo on French bottled wine. As Madame Clicquot was not to be so easily defeated, she chartered a Dutch ship to convey 10,550 bottles to a major port in the Baltic Sea, so that she was ready for the market’s return. When the embargoes were lifted, her shipment was the first to arrive, and all bottles were quickly sold. Soon the Russians became Clicquot’s biggest fans, and the market was hers for the taking.
In September 1814, the Congress of Vienna convened, to agree new borders for Europe. Madame Clicquot did everything possible to ensure that the drink of choice at the event was her champagne. Champagne was in very high demand, and the negotiations turned into a huge promotional opportunity for her business. Her champagne soon became an essential feature for high society events, cabarets and restaurants – and has retained its position to this day.
Alongside its growing popularity, there were many ‘copycat’ versions of Veuve Clicquot in the market. To prevent this from happening, Madame Clicquot stamped her brand across all bottles. She marked them with an anchor symbol, sealed with green wax. In 1876, the firm added the iconic yellow label on all of its bottles, registering it as a trademark and cementing her legacy.