The Champagne Widows
When we think of great Champagne houses, amongst the names brought to mind are Veuve Clicquot, Pommery, Bollinger, Roederer and Perrier. These are all the names of fantastic Champagne wineries, and they are also the names of famous Champagne widows who ran their businesses in a world once reserved for men.
The first widow in the group, and perhaps the most famous, was Barbe-Nicole Clicquot Ponsardin. It is after her that "La Grande Dame" is named, and of course Veuve Clicquot. The world "Veuve" means "widow". She became a widow in 1805, at the age of 27. Madame Clicquot had a young daughter and no knowledge of the business, but she eagerly took control of the organization and did quite well by it. It was she that developed the system of removing sediment from the Champagne bottles - by cutting holes in her kitchen table!
In 1858, Louise Pommery took control of the Pommery winery, at the age of 39 and with two children to care for as well. She built elaborate buildings over her cellars, and developed a brut style of Champagne that the British adored. She brought her winery from a small, multi-wine shop to a large Champagne house, respected the world over.
Almost twenty years later, Mathilde Emile Laurent-Perrier took over Laaurent-Perrier and ran it for 38 years. In fact, when the company later floundered when Methilde died, another widow - Marie-Louise de Nonancourt, purchased the house and kept it going.
In 1932, Madame Camille Olry-Roederer took over not only the Champagne business but also her family's race horses. She kept both alive during the depression and wars. She also promoted Cristal, the top of the line Champagne available from Roederer.
Finally, Madame Lily Bollinger. She took control in 1941 - not an easy time for any Champagne house to be inoperation. She doubled production of the winery, and is famous for the "I only drink it ..." quote.
When you have your bubbly on Dec 31st, raise a toast to these women who have brought so many fine Champagne into the world!
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