Review by Eric Tansey, CSW Veuve Clicquot Champagne is a classic and well known champagne from the Champagne region of France. Pale straw in color, this sparkling wine is bright and the bubbles dance in the glass. Moderate aromas of yellow apples and bread-like yeast. On the palate the wine is absolutely stunning. Nearly a perfect balance of fruit and yeast. The yellow apple is evident on the front of the palate but fades to that gloriously fresh, yeasty French baguette finish that you can only find in high quality, traditionally made sparkling wine. The finish is clean with crisp acidity and no evidence of alcohol thanks to the soothing yeast characteristics. What a great way to celebrate, and the bright orange label sets the tone for any party. Cheers!
Tansey’s Blind Rating – 92 Points
Selection – Veuve Clicquot
Region – Reims, in the Champagne region of France
Vintage – Non Vintage
Varietal – Between 50-55% Pinot noir, 15-20% Pinot Meunier, and 28-33% Chardonnay
Dryness level – Brut (Dry)
Style – Champagne
Method – Traditional
Alcohol – 12%
Food Pairings – Baked or grilled seafood, chicken, salad, cheese or EVERYTHING
The story of the Widow Clicquot and the greatest treasure found in a shipwreck By Eric Tansey CSW, Somm
The Champagne House that is known as Veuve Clicquot (or Widow) is a house that was established in the late 1700s by a young entrepreneur by the name of Phillipe Cliquot in the town of Reims, in the region of Champagne, France. In 1798 the house was passed on to Phillipe’s son, Francois Clicquot. Francois married a lady named Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin and this is where the story really begins. Francois died in in 1805, six years after marring Madame Cliquot. This left Madame Clicquot, now Widow Clicquot, as the first female to be in charge of a Champagne House.
The house became know as Veuve (French for “widow”) Cliquot. She was quite the winemaker and marketing monster. She used new ground breaking techniques such as riddling (turning the bottles methodically to get the yeast to fall to the neck so that it can be removed from the bottle.) In marketing, she was practically the Gary Vaynerchuck of the 1800s. Hers was the first Champagne house to export wine to Imperial Russia and she made great strides in winning over all of the royal courts of Europe. She also gave wine to Persian Guards at different check points and blockades while traveling through the Russian territories; these guards used their swords to open the bottles, which is still a tradition today known as sabering.
In 2010 divers found 168 bottles of wine in a shipwreck over 160 feet deep under the Baltic Sea near the Finnish Aland Islands. The bottles were 170 years old and over forty of them were determined to be 1782 Veuve Clicquot. This was determined this thanks to the famous stampings on the corks that are still used today. The wines were tasted and broken down for a chemical analysis. The sparkling wine showed to have been much sweeter than today’s sparkling wines.
Scientists determined the wine had about the same amount of residual sugar as a modern day Coca-Cola. The wine also had higher traces of iron and arsenic, which is attributed to the pesticides used during that period and the nails that held the barrels together. Was it still good? Tasters said that the wine tasted like grilled meats and leather with hints of floral and fruity notes. There were no tastes of vinegar or acetic acid that is commonly detected in spoiled wine. Some of these bottles were auctioned off for over $156,000 a bottle! Cheers Eric Tansey, CSW, Somm.
What is the Traditional Method?
The traditional method, or Metodo Tradicional, is, you guessed it, the traditional and original way of making sparkling wine. First, the grapes are turned into a typical white wine. Then the bubbles are made by bottling the white wine and adding a mixture of sugar and yeast, called the tirage, to the bottle. The bottle is then capped. The tirage starts a second fermentation inside the bottle, creating carbon dioxide. The CO2 becomes bubbles, YAY! But now there is all this dead yeast, aka lees, floating around inside the bottle. We get rid of the lees by riddling the bottles.
Riddling is a process by which the bottles are placed into a large rack where they are either mechanically or manually turned slowly, over the course of several months, until the dead yeast cells are gathered in the neck of the bottle. The neck is then hit with a freezing blast that freezes the gunk into a solid block. The cap is then removed and the CO2 does the rest. The carbonation shoots the solid ice out like a rocket ship. This is called disgorging.
The finished wine is then topped off with a little dosage, or sugar, to soften it up a bit and a little of the white wine is added back to the bottle to bring the volume back up. This little bit of added wine is called the liqueur d’expedition. You now have a bottle of sparkling wine made using the traditional method. Cheers! Eric Tansey, CSW, Sommelier