Just last month a team of divers in the Baltic Sea discovered 168 bottles of French bubbly that had been ageing in optimal conditions for decades—inside of a sunken schooner just off the coast of Finland.
The treasure of Champagne included varietals from several Champagne houses, including Veuve Clicquot.
Though Veuve Clicquot is now one of the most popular brands of Champagne in the world, few know that it was founded by a brave young man and his wife who both wanted to break free from their family textile businesses. In fact, the two were only married because their fathers were competitors in the textile business and they wanted to solidify their powerful businesses by marrying their children. This all took place in France, just after the Revolution had turned people against the monarchy. Much to the chagrin of the two fathers, Francois Clicquot, the young husband, wanted to learn the art of wine making and start selling Champagne, rather than take over the textile business. Though his father thought it was a terrible business move, he and his new bride set out to learn the business.
Six years after their marriage, and just as their Champagne business seemed ready to collapse, Francois suddenly died.
Despite the near-failure, Francois’ widow begged her father-in-law to allow her to continue with the business she’d built with her husband. Phillipe Clicquot believed in the business acumen of Barbe-Nicole Clicquot and agreed to allow her to risk her inheritance and invest an extra million dollars into the business.
As it turned out, it was her eye for business that led to the boom of Veuve Clicquot on the international scene. Barbe-Nicole foresaw that the Russian market would be thirsty for her Champagne as soon as the Napoleonic Wars ended. Her initial shipment beat her competitors to Russia and when Tsar Alexander I announced that it was the only kind of Champagne he would drink, popularity soared.
The story of Veuve Clicquot is a tale of woe turned triumph. The only trace of the sorrow is left in the name—veuve means widow in French.
As for the Veuve from under the sea, several bottles were sold at auction for up to 100,000 Euros each. The scientist who sampled a bottle said in an interview published by The Smithsonian, “It was incredible. I have never tasted such a wine in my life. The aroma stayed in my mouth for three or four hours after tasting it.”
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