On Tuesday, May 28th, the Women of Parlay enjoyed a visit from Seth Box, the director of Wine and Spirit Education, Moet Hennessy.
Seth started us out with a sample of Veuve’s Rose, which came in a special box designed for the cherry blossom festival, and then treated us to their premier cru, Grand Dame. Filling us with both champagne and knowledge, he gave us a fantastic overview on the world of champagne, and specifically, the history of the grande dame herself.
About the Widow Clicquot
Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin, born 16 December 1777 in Reims, was the daughter of a wealthy father, Ponce Jean Nicolas Philippe Ponsardin (from 1813, Baron Ponsardin), a textile manufacturer and politician. Her mother was Jeanne Josephe Marie-Clémentine Letertre Huart.
She married François Clicquot at the age of 21. Her husband died six years later. Her husband’s death may have been suicide, but it was attributed to typhoid. In her own right, Madame was wealthy by virtue of her very well connected family. Napoleon and Josephine had both stayed at her father’s hotel. Her father was made mayor of Rheims by Napoleon’s decree.
Her husband François died in 1805, leaving his widow (veuve in French) in control of a company variously involved in banking, wool trading, and champagne production. Under Madame Clicquot’s control, the house focused entirely on champagne, and thrived using funds supplied by her father-in-law. Under her management and her skill with wine, the company developed early champagne using a novel technique called riddling. Prior to this invention the second fermentation of wine to create champagne resulted in a very sweet wine with large bubbles and sediment from the remains of the yeastused in the fermentation in the bottle (which creates the bubbles in the wine) resulting in a cloudy wine.
Her technique still used the original English technique of adding additional sugar, but after this second fermentation was complete the bottles were held upside down. The bottles were regularly turned so that the dead yeast would all gather near the cork (riddling). Once the settling was complete, the wine near the cork was frozen and the cork and frozen plug removed (disgorgement), followed by an addition of wine to refill the bottle.