It was in 1772 that a humble, yellow-labeled French Champagne house in Reims was founded by a textile merchant, Philippe Clicquot — the father-in-law of one Madame Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin. When Clicquot’s son and heir succumbed to typhoid in 1805, he nearly liquidated the company. Instead, the reins of this soon-to-be iconic maison were taken over by Madame Clicquot, aged just 27 with a six-year-old child at the time.
An audacious, innovative woman, she became the first businesswomen of modern times who went on to transform the small company into one of the most acclaimed wineries in the world. The ‘Veuve’ — meaning widow in French — in Veuve Clicquot, was named after her. In the process, she gained the title, ‘la grande dame of Champagne’. And it is in tribute to her that the luxury label recently launched the La Grande Dame 2008, an exquisitely rare Champagne, which is now available in Hong Kong.
La Grand Dame was first introduced in 1972, using a 1962 vintage, as part of Veuve Clicquot’s 200th anniversary celebrations. The Champagne was marked by a Pinot Noir-dominant style, a unique signature of the house that blended together eight crus: five Pinot Noirs and three Chardonnays.
For this newly presented, remarkable 2008 vintage, however, La Grand Dame has been given a fresh identity with a modified signature, blending only six of those original eight crus: now five Pinot Noirs and one Chardonnay. With a resultant 92 percent Pinot Noir and only eight percent Chardonnay, it possesses the highest percentage of the former grape in Veuve Clicquot’s history, and beautifully reflects the terroir of the maison’s Champagne and vineyard. As Veuve Clicquot winemaker Gaëlle Goossens explains, “[You’ll find] aromas of chalk, minerality, iodine, white flowers and citrus. Pinot Noir gives the strength; terroir gives the finesse. This wine is precise, elegant and delicate.”
The author of this exceptional blend is cellar master Dominique Demarville, who wanted to honour Madame Clicquot and her special motto: ‘Only one quality, the finest’. As his first hand at a La Grand Dame, Demarville wanted to embrace the rich tradition of the winery in a brand new way: he reached out to Veuve Clicquot’s historical Grands Crus in Aÿ, Ambonnay, Bouzy, Verzy and Verzenay to create the Pinot Noir for this blend; the Chardonnay is from the house’s Grand Cru in Le-Mesnil-sur-Oger.
“My vision is to bring La Grande Dame towards the finesse and elegance that the Pinot Noir offers us in these Grands Crus,” said Demarville. “In a way, this is the Veuve Clicquot twist: to combine depth and silkiness with lightness and elegance in this exceptional cuvée.”
When poured into a glass, La Grande Dame 2008 has a surprising shimmer of light golden colour. At a recent tasting event at Sevva to celebrate the women behind Veuve Clicquot, a gentle sniff of the 2008 revealed hints of dried fruits (almonds, figs, apricots), ripe white fruits (pears), and subtle toasted notes of hazelnut and praline. On the palate, it surprised us again with its sharp flavour — not as sweet as the 2006 in comparison — and an unexpected silky texture with fine effervescence. In essence, the Pinot Noir expresses itself wonderfully with its freshness, minerality and elegance.
Such an outstanding wine deserves an equally refined presentation. You can now find Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame 2008 vintage cuvées at wine retailers city-wide, in their chic new black gift boxes bearing the iconic La Grande Dame silhouette.