January 17, 2007

Champagne Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Non-Vintage Brut, Reims, France

Who doesn't love Champagne? That is a rhetorical question, so if you just answered out loud you may feel a bit foolish. Cat and I have always believed that people drink Champagne all too infrequently, and typically only on special occasions. We do what we can to change this and try to enjoy a half-bottle of champagne whenever the urge strikes us, which not-surprisingly is quite often. We're impulsive like that.

The Champagne house of Veuve Clicquot would be our favorite of the wines that we have been fortunate enough to sample from the Champagne region. It was my introduction to Champagne more than 16 years ago when I was in the restaurant business and it is the one that Cat and I enjoyed when we first met. Though we have tried several others it is the one we always go back to. We have enjoyed a couple vintage bottles from Veuve, as well as their brut rose and demi-sec. All are absolutely excellent. Our budget demands compromise, though, and for a more frequent Champagne we love the non-vintage brut pictured above and immediately recognizable by it's special Clicquot yellow label. The grapes used in champagne are chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier. This non-vintage brut is distinct by the majority of it being pinot noir. About a third is chardonnay with a small percentage of pinot meunier. The dominance of pinot noir in this blend is what creates the very distinct structure of this wine.

There are two reasons, really, why we love this one. The first has to do with it's style. Veuve is traditionally a very dry and restrained style of champagne, with a yeasty quality to the nose and palate and strong, notable structure. These qualities make it an excellent apertif, but also a champagne that holds up well with lighter food (especially seafood). The flavors on the palate range from a little bit of spiced orange to subtle vanilla. Nothing lingers, though, and this wine finishes dry and clean. It always makes us happy and is a great way to introduce a little bit of luxury into the day.

The second reason we love this champagne is it's history. Though Veuve Clicquot was started by Phillipe Clicquot-Muiron in 1772, it was his son Francois who began to revolutionize the Champagne business and be among the first to export Champagne outside the confines of France. He died, though, leaving his work unfinished and his wife, the famed Madame Clicquot pictured above on top of the champagne cork, took over the business. She was the first woman to run a winery in France, and especially one of the significance and stature of Veuve Cliquot. This turned out to be a very good thing for the winery. Madame Cliquot took her champagne to new heights by building a strong brand around it - really the first French winery to do so with such notable success. Many of her marketing efforts on behalf of her wines are still best practices with luxury brands today. Among them was establishing Veuve Clicquot as THE champagne of the various royal houses of Europe. When Madame Clicquot passed away she left behind her a champagne powerhouse devoted to unique quality and to meeting the market needs beyond the frontiers of France. She did great work for growing the world's passion for great champagne. After her death, and in honor of her prestige, the image of Madame Clicquot herself came to represent the significance of the Veuve Clicquot brand, and her personal seal a symbol of its devotion to quality.

Veuve Clicquot on Wikipedia

cost - $26.99 (half bottle)

winecommando rating (1-10) - 8

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