Women in Wine History – Facts About the Champagne Widows
Champagne and sparkling wines have become staples during the most celebratory times in our lives. However, this may have not been the case without a few key women in wine history. To kick of Women’s History Month, we’re celebrating the women who shaped the wine world– the women known as the Champagne widows.
“Veuve” is the French word for widow – a word you’ve seen on the label of one of the most famous Champagne brands in the world. The name honors France’s first businesswoman, Veuve Cliquot.
Along with Cliquot, a number of other wine houses began in the wake of tragedy. Those tragic circumstances created some of the first female CEOs in history and the bubbly wine styles we still love today.
For enjoyment at your next dinner party or girlfriend get together, we present our favorite facts about each of the Champagne Widows:
Madame Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin Clicquot (1777-1866)
Six years after they were married, Philippe Clicquot passed away and his 27-year-old wife, Barbe-Nicole took over the couple’s wine business. At first, wine sales were unsuccessful under Barbe-Nicole, but she made a bet at the end of the Napoleonic Wars that Russian buyers would love her very sweet champagne. When her wine landed in Russia, Tsar Alexander fell in love, announcing it was the only kind he would drink.
FACT: Barbe-Nicole developed the riddling method, a technique still used by modern Champagne producers.
FACT: Barbe-Nicole never left France or remarried during her lifetime. Remarrying would have most likely meant handing over control of her business to her husband.
“The world is in perpetual motion, and we must invent the things of tomorrow. One must go before others, be determined and exacting, and let your intelligence direct your life. Act with audacity.” – Madame Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin Clicquot
Louise Pommery (1819-1890)
At the age of 38, Louise Pommery’s husband Alexander passed away and she took his place at the helm of their wine house. She’s credited for switching the focus of the company from still red wine to sparkling white wine.
FACT: Louise created “Brut” Champagne for Queen Victoria, a style that took the English market by storm when it was released.
We can also thank her for creating wine tourism, building an estate to accommodate guests traveling to the Champagne region of France.
Elizabeth “Lily” Bollinger (1899-1977)
Widowed at the age of 42, Lily Bollinger became head of the Bollinger House and one of the leading ladies of Champagne. She bravely led the company through the German occupation of WWII.
FACT: In the 1970s, Bollinger became the official champagne of the James Bond movies. You can catch her bubbly in Bond films featuring Roger Moore, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig.
Her most famous quote makes us think she’d be a fantastic member of the Wine Sisterhood:
“I drink champagne when I’m happy and when I’m sad. Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone. When I have company I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I’m not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise, I never touch it — unless I’m thirsty.”
Looking for a new sparkling wine to try? We recommend these fantastic bottles of bubbles: