Wine and Spirits The Widow's Wine

Since 1987, Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin has been part of the empire of the LVMH group (Louis Vuitton, Moet, Hennessy ), a multinational corporation that controls many of the world's luxury merchandise.

In 1772, Philippe Clicquot-Miron founded the Clicquot champagne house. Philippe begat a son, Francois, who took over the reins of the vineyards and winemaking facilities and married Barbe Nicole Ponsardin. When Francois died in 1805, his widow (veuve in French ) assumed control of the business, changing the name to Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin.

The widow Clicquot did more than just take over the champagne house, quickly demonstrating her skills both as a winery owner and a businesswoman of great talent. She revolutionized the production of champagne by devising the riddling system (remurage in French ) by which bottles are placed on special racks with their necks facing downward and are turned by hand on a regular basis so the dead yeast cells in the wine can settle there and be easily removed. She was also the first to insist that only three grapes could be used in champagne: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Munier.

The widow's greatest year was in 1811 - a year known as a "comet vintage," because the French believe that years in which major comets appear in the sky will be superb vintage years. While there is no scientific basis for this belief, the year of the Great Comet of 1811 yielded truly great wines, a few of which are still drinking well even today, 200 years later.

Her wines were so exceptional they became the favorites of Napoleon Bonaparte, the Russian czars, the kings and queens of the United Kingdom and - even though Germany and France were bitter enemies during her lifetime - also of the German kaisers.

Since 1987, Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin has been part of the empire of the LVMH group (Louis Vuitton, Moet, Hennessy ), a multinational corporation that controls many of the world's luxury merchandise. This has not prevented the wines from attaining excellence on a regular basis. Following are reviews of Veuve Clicquot wines available locally.

House highlights

Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin, Brut Champagne, La Grande Dame, 1998: Golden straw in color, opening with a delicate yeasty and rye nose, going on to aromas and flavors of apples, peaches and oranges and finally yielding to minerals and notes of roasted nuts - all supported by generous acidity and finishing with a hint of butterscotch. A long-lasting mousse with sharp bubbles that go on and on. Drink now-2035. NIS 1800. Score 95.

Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin, Brut Champagne, 2002: Light gold in color, medium- to full-bodied, with bare and enchanting hints of yeast and ginger, showing a fine mousse and well-focused bubbles that go on and on. Creamy on the palate and on first attack notes of oranges and pears, leading to hints of candied apples and vanilla and, on the long finish, notes of apple pie and lemon rind. Long and lively, but complex and elegant. Drink now-2025. NIS 550. Score 93.

Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin, Brut Rose Champagne, n.v.: Blushing peach in color with a floral and berry nose, opening in the glass to reveal summer fruits, wild berries and notes of watermelon. Light but generous and vibrant, with a long mousse and sharp bubbles that last and last, all leading to a long, pear and mineral-rich finish. Drink now-2014. NIS 490. Score 91.

Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin, Brut Rose Champagne, 2004: The color of blushing pink peaches, a round and light- to medium-bodied champagne opening to reveal strawberry, citrus and cherry fruits. Fine, concentrated bubbles and a light yeasty overtone add charm to this delightful wine. Drink now-2014. NIS 600. Score 93.

Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin, Brut Champagne, Yellow Label, n.v.: Lovely. A fresh, fruity and just complex enough champagne to grab our attention and charm us. A good mousse, finely focused bubbles that last and last. On the nose and palate, apple, citrus, and rose petal notes, matched nicely by hints of minerals. Medium-bodied, seeming to float on the palate, and a long lightly yeasty finish. Drink now or in the next few years. NIS 430. Score 90.

Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin, Demi-Sec Champagne, n.v.: Golden straw in color, with fine acidity to keep the moderate sweetness in balance; showing citrus and ginger notes all lingering nicely. A fine mousse and well-focused bubbles lead to a moderately long finish. A fine accompaniment to fruit pies and tartes. Drink now-2012. NIS 450. Score 89.

Not the best from Bollinger

Through blending wines of different vintage years, every champagne house strives to give their non-vintage releases a consistency in texture, flavor and overall style from year to year. There is no question that Bollinger is one of the great producers of vintage champagne, but their non-vintage Special Cuvee is sometimes problematic, lacking that consistency.

As such, from bottling to bottling the wine can have enormous variations - at times being close to perfection and at other times being too smoky, too yeasty or too muted in flavor. Over the years, I have tasted and reviewed their Brut Special Cuvee wine, at various times awarding it a score as high as 93 points and at other times an unexciting 89 points.

The problem for wine lovers is that unless one has the key to the top-secret codes used by the producers, there is no way to know precisely when the wine in question was bottled, which vintage years went into the blend and precisely what bottle is on the shelf of the store where we purchase our wines. As evidenced in the tasting note that follows, my most recent tasting was not all what I might have hoped for.

Bollinger, Brut Champagne, Special Cuvee, n.v.: Shining gold in color, medium- to full-bodied, with a long mousse and fine, concentrated bubbles but faulted because of overpowering aromas and flavors of malt, yeast and mushroom that hide the peaches, figs and minerals struggling to make themselves felt. Although the wine opens somewhat in the glass, it fails to attain the heights one hopes for. NIS 405. Score 88.