I mentioned in a comment on the Trail on Saturday that I was enjoying some Veuve Clicquot champagne, and that led to some research on my part that I found fascinating.
I noticed on the bottle a portrait of a woman. I don’t speak French, so I looked up the name and found it meant “The Widow Clicquot”. I went on to find that in 1805, at the age of 27, this woman inherited a champagne vineyard and business upon the death of her husband, and was the only woman to run a champagne house. Her father-in-law insisted that she do an apprenticeship in champagne production, and she went on to be wildly successful. She invented a method of champagne production that is still in use today. She was the first to make Rose champagne. She was a friend of Napoleon, yet she made a point of smuggling champagne into Russia. Here is part of the Wikipedia entry for her:
On 21 July 1810, Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin launched her own company: “Veuve Clicquot-Ponsardin”.
Barbe-Nicole exported the vast majority of her champagne out of France. Unfortunately, she was facing naval blockades that kept her from sending her wine abroad. Furthermore, Czar Alexander I banned French products.
Facing bankruptcy, Barbe-Nicole took a business gamble: she decided to send her champagne to Russia, when peace returned ahead of her competitors. While the war’s naval blockades paralyzed commercial shipping, Madame Clicquot and Louis Bohne secretly planned to sneak a boat through the blockade to Russia.
With the French monarchy restored, Madame Clicquot and Louis Bohne put the plan they had been preparing for five years into execution. In 1814, as the blockades fell away, the company chartered a Dutch cargo ship, the “Zes Gebroeders”, en route to Königsberg, to deliver 10,550 bottles of Veuve Clicquot champagne to the Russian market, taking advantage of the general chaos, while their competitors still believed such a move to be impossible. The boat left Le Havre on June 6, 1814. Meanwhile, Russia had lifted the ban on importing French products. The whole shipment was quickly sold. A few weeks later, another ship left Rouen laden with 12,780 bottles of champagne destined for St. Petersburg, which were sold out as soon as they arrived. When the champagne reached St.Petersburg, Grand Duke Michael Pavlovich of Russia, Czar Alexander I’s brother, declared that Veuve Clicquot-Ponsardin champagne would be the only kind he would drink. Word of his preference spread throughout the Russian court.[11
During the years that followed, Russia continued to buy Veuve Clicquot wines. Sales rocketed: from 43,000 bottles in 1816, they climbed to 280,000 in 1821 and increased until the 1870s. Within two years, the widow Clicquot had become famous and was at the helm of an internationally renowned commercial business.
I just love looking up stuff like this. It makes me no richer, but it makes life interesting. Research is sort of like finding out the juicy gossip about neighbors, but it is less damaging and hurtful.
What do you like to find out about? What were you doing when you were 27?