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Veuve Clicquot Vintage Brut with Gift Box 1995
When he founded his wine merchant business under the label "Clicquot" in 1772, Philippe Clicquot had a clear ambition: cross all borders. He conquered Europe and then Russia in 1780, followed by the United States in 1782. He was joined at the head of the House in 1798 by his son, François Clicquot, who had recently married Barbe Ponsardin. Seven years later, following the untimely death of François Clicquot, his young widow ("veuve" in French), just 27 years old, took over the family business.
Over the course of her lifetime, Madame Clicquot developed three of the most important innovations in Champagne, that remain in practice today. She demonstrated her innovative spirit in 1810 by producing the first vintage wine in Champagne. In 1816, she invented the riddling table as a way to clarify her champagne, and by doing so, she improved both the quality and finesse of the wines. Never one to rest on her laurels, in 1818 Madame Clicquot created the first rose champagne made through assemblage, a method where white wines are blended with red wines.
Faithful to the values of creativity and innovation passed on by Madame Clicquot, the Maison marked its bottles with its first yellow label in 1877, making the brand distinctive and instantly recognizable. Today, Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label is the signature champagne of the House, and distinguishes itself through the dominance of Pinot Noir, which gives strength, complexity and elegance to the champagne.
Associated with luxury, celebration, and romance, the region, Champagne, is home to the world’s most prized sparkling wine. In order to bear the label, ‘Champagne’, a sparkling wine must originate from this northeastern region of France—called Champagne—and adhere to strict quality standards. Made up of the three towns Reims, Épernay, and Aÿ, it was here that the traditional method of sparkling wine production was both invented and perfected, birthing a winemaking technique as well as a flavor profile that is now emulated worldwide.
Well-drained, limestone and chalky soil defines much of the region, which lend a mineral component to its wines. Champagne’s cold, continental climate promotes ample acidity in its grapes but weather differences from year to year can create significant variation between vintages. While vintage Champagnes are produced in exceptional years, non-vintage cuvées are produced annually from a blend of several years in order to produce Champagnes that maintain a consistent house style.
With nearly negligible exceptions, three varieties are permitted for use in Champagne: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. These can be blended together or bottled as individual varietal Champagnes, depending on the final style of wine desired. Chardonnay, the only white variety, contributes freshness, elegance, lively acidity and notes of citrus, orchard fruit and white flowers. Pinot Noir and its relative Pinot Meunier, provide the backbone to many blends, adding structure, body and supple red fruit flavors. Wines with a large proportion of Pinot Meunier will be ready to drink earlier, while Pinot Noir contributes to longevity. Whether it is white or rosé, most Champagne is made from a blend of red and white grapes—and uniquely, rosé is often produce by blending together red and white wine. A Champagne made exclusively from Chardonnay will be labeled as ‘blanc de blancs,’ while ones comprised of only red grapes are called ‘blanc de noirs.’
Representing the topmost expression of a Champagne house, a vintage Champagne is one made from the produce of a single, superior harvest year. Vintage Champagnes account for a mere 5% of total Champagne production and are produced about three times in a decade. Champagne is typically made as a blend of multiple years in order to preserve the house style; these will have non-vintage, or simply, NV on the label. The term, "vintage," as it applies to all wine, simply means a single harvest year.