July 23, 2014
July 22, 2014
A conversation with Patricia Pearson
July 21, 2014
Standard Interviews: Les Murray, president of Toronto’s Festival of Beer
July 17, 2014
Do Make Say Think (July 18-20)
How a Toronto company is helping the world’s creatives showcase their work
July 15, 2014
Five Toronto Designers You Should Know by Now
La Veuve Clicquot
How the Grande Dame of Champagne turned an entrepreneurial enterprise into an empire

By Carolyn Patricia Grisold

In 1798 at the age of 21, Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin married François Clicquot, heir to a struggling business that spread across wool, banking, and Champagne production. Just six years later, her husband passed away from typhoid fever, leaving the 27-year-old veuve (French for ‘widow’) in control of the family business.

During the Napoleonic period of that time, widows had more freedom than generally allotted to women as a whole, yet it was still groundbreaking for la grande dame to achieve what she did. She was truly one of the first contemporary businesswomen, and her success was remarkable for how she not only furthered the House of Clicquot by narrowing its focus down to Champagne production — but through her innovation, changed the sparkling wine industry itself.

In 1816 Mme. Clicquot developed, along with her cellar master Antoine de Müller, a new bottling technique called “riddling.” She did this by cutting holes in an old table through which the Champagne bottles would rest and be turned on a regular basis to gather dead yeast in the neck, which could then be released. Before she stepped in, traditional production resulted in a very sweet tasting wine. La Maison Clicquot is said to be the first “modern” Champagne producer, and its veuve is considered a pioneer in the industry today.

Not much is known about the Grande Dame’s personal life but in a letter to one of her great-grandchildren she is said to have written, “You more than anyone resemble me, you who have such audacity. It is a precious quality that has been very useful to me in the course of my long life… to dare things before others!”

With any entrepreneur, foresight and risk-taking are just as important as any other business acumen. La veuve Clicquot not only changed the course of an industry through innovation, but also through marketing. She established the beverage at royal courts throughout Europe, overcoming a continental embargo and in 1814 shipped 10,550 bottles of Champagne to Russia. The brand’s iconic yellow label was trademarked in 1877, and remains a distinctive, highly-recognizable feature.

In 1972, to celebrate the winery’s bicentenary, Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin launched a vintage Champagne named, but of course, La Grande Dame. Also in that year, the Veuve Clicquot Business Woman Award was created, in tribute to its entrepreneurial madam. This award champions the success of women in business who exhibit the traits for which la veuve was know: an enterprising spirit, courage and the determination to accomplish her aims. International in scope, this award is given in 27 countries; its 2012 recipient in Canada was Christiane Germain, past speaker at les Midis-conférences Femmes d’influence de Deloitte in Montréal and co-president of Groupe Germain, responsible for Hôtel Le Germain’s unique product experience and operations.

Since 1987, Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin has been part of the Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy (LVMH) group of luxury brands. Although Mme. Clicquot died July 29th 1866 in Boursault, France, through the success of la Maison Clicquot and its Business Woman Award, her legacy as an entrepreneur continues to sparkle.


This article was crossposted from Women of Influence Magazine. Follow Women of Influence on Twitter at @WomenOfInflnce.

For more, follow us on Twitter @TorontoStandard and subscribe to our newsletter.

By Igor Bonifacic
July 17th, 2014
Editors Pick How a Toronto company is helping the world's creatives showcase their work
Read More
By Claudia McNeilly
June 24th, 2014
Editors Pick This is What Happens When You Buy Fake Gucci Online
Read More
By Christian Borys
June 26th, 2014
Editors Pick Dispatches from the Valley: Julien Smith, CEO of Breather
Read More
By Igor Bonifacic
July 9th, 2014
Editors Pick Standard Interviews: Tom Paterson of Junction Craft Brewing
Read More
  • No article found.
  • By Amanda Lee
    July 22nd, 2014
    Books A conversation with Patricia Pearson
    Read More
    By Igor Bonifacic
    July 21st, 2014
    Editors Pick Standard Interviews: Les Murray, president of Toronto's Festival of Beer
    Read More
    By Lauren Pincente
    July 17th, 2014
    Editors Pick Do Make Say Think (July 18-20)
    Read More
    By Igor Bonifacic
    July 17th, 2014
    Editors Pick How a Toronto company is helping the world's creatives showcase their work
    Read More


    Society Snaps: Eric S. Margolis Foundation Launch

    Kristin Davis moved Toronto's philanthroists to tears ... then sent them all home with a baby elephant - Read More