This is the story of the Madame Clicquot Ponsardin and her vision for Veuve Clicquot. Affectionately referred to as The “Widow Clicquot,” Barbe-Nicole revolutionized Champagne and made it the unique star that it is today.


champagne-exploading-cork-winefolly-illusrtration-2014

champagne-exploading-cork-winefolly-illusrtration-2014

Women. Women are strong and powerful and yet remain elegant. It’s quite the paradox…and that’s coming from a woman.

Delicate. Explosive.
Refined. Sporadic.
Timid. Bold.

Name a wine as enigmatic as a female. Champagne, perhaps?

Champagne offers quite the paradox, itself. Something that just shouldn’t be: sparkling, explosive wine, trapped behind a cork. Six atmospheres worth of pressure, created on accident.

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Today, labels like Veuve Clicquot, Dom Perignon, and Cristal line retail shelves across the world. This beverage speaks of luxury and extravagance, but it wasn’t always this way.

We can thank many for the Champagne we have today, but a woman stands out.

Her name was Barbe-Nicole. She was a bold pioneer of Champagne, and a bad ass lady (before being a bad-ass lady was a thing).

Artist rendition of Barbe-Nicole Clicquot-Ponsardin by Madeline Puckette

Artist rendition of Barbe-Nicole Clicquot-Ponsardin by Madeline Puckette

Artistic interpretation of Barbe-Nicole at 23. Illustration by Madeline Puckette

Barbe-Nicole: The Lady Herself

Born: December 16, 1777

Her story starts ninety miles east of Paris in the town of Reims, France. Barbe-Nicole grew up as the eldest daughter of one of wealthy textile industry tycoon: Ponce Jean Nicolas Philippe.

Barbe-Nicole was a tiny woman. Probably no taller than 4 and a half feet tall, she had light colored hair and grey eyes.

Visually, she was nothing extraordinary, but her true value had nothing to do with wealth or looks.

It wasn’t until shortly after the French Revolution, when she was throttled into world of wine, that Barbe-Nicole found her purpose.

Painting of French Revolution.

Painting of French Revolution.

Pictured: NOT the Widow Cliquot.

From Extravagance to Stoicism

The French Revolution turned the family’s boisterous wealth into something that needed to stay under wraps.

In the midst of the political rebellion, Barbe-Nicole’s affluent father joined a radical fringe group called the Jacobins. This group outwardly rebelled against the monarchy and their wealth.

At this point, the family lived a reserved life because showing riches and prosperity was dangerous.

Still, Ponce Jean Nicolas Philippe wanted a bright future for his eldest daughter. So, at twenty years old, she married François Clicquot, the son of another wealthy textile family (who also dabbled in wine).

Barbe-Nicole, The Good Wife

Her new husband, François, always dreamt of entering the Champagne business. Their ample dowry made this possible.

Within the first months of their marriage, the couple were choosing parcels of property for grape growing.

For some time, François was the face of the company; meanwhile, Barbe-Nicole remained in the background. Still, she worked alongside her husband learning the ins-and-outs of winemaking and working in the vineyards.

At the time, women of the era were directed towards a reproductive life. However, like many other women in Champagne, Barbe-Nicole wanted to do more.

Madame-Clicquot-Barbe-Nicole-painting-1861-Veuve-Clicquot-84-years

Madame-Clicquot-Barbe-Nicole-painting-1861-Veuve-Clicquot-84-years

Madame Clicquot painted in 1861 when she was 84 years old. Courtesy of Veuve Clicquot

Where does the name “Veuve Clicquot” come from?

Veuve means “widow” in French. This is where the story takes a turn.

François died in hands of the Typhoid Fever in 1805 at just 30 years old (Barbe-Nicole was just 28). Surprisingly, Barbe-Nicole took over the company.

Without batting an eye, the young “Widow Clicquot” took affairs into her own hands. Neither her gender or social class defined her. She had a fire, a determination, and a vision for her brand.

Barbe-Nicole handled everything from international strategy to wine production. Her role became more than that of just business and pivoted towards her noteworthy developments in marketing and technology innovation.

“In an era when women were excluded from the business world, she dared to assume the head of the company, a role she undertook with passion and determination.”
-Veuve Clicquot website


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