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The Many Flavors of Veuve Clicquot

The Many Flavors of Veuve Clicquot

I recently attended a dinner at Flavor restaurant in Del Mar for Veuve Clicquot champagne. Very few names in the champagne world are more recognizable than that of Madame Veuve Clicquot, and there are two things about Veuve that you should know.

The first of these is the story of Veuve Clicquot. To oversimplify its history, you could simply say Veuve is the first champagne house brought into its own by a woman – Madame Veuve Clicquot. After her husband passed away, she herself became actively involved and eventually marketed her champagne to become a respected brand through the royal courts of Europe, including holding a royal warrant of Queen Elizabeth II. What I find most amazing is how the widow Clicquot revolutionized champagne production to make it what it is today.

Before the early 1800s champagne was consumed from a glass in an ice bath. Servants would come around to pour your champagne and you would let it rest a few moments so all of the sediment in the wine could settle to the bottom of the glass. After drinking your champagne you would turn the glass upside down in the ice to dump out the sludge left behind and then your glass would be turned back over and refilled. I personally love champagne, but would find this ritual taxing enough to not enjoy a drink. Madame Clicquot is responsible for fixing this. As the story goes she had holes drilled in her dining room table and created the first riddling rack, a system still used in champagne production today to remove the sediment from the bottle before it is sold to the consumer. 

Since Veuve Clicquot released that first clear sparkling wine in 1811, not much has changed with how champagne is made. There have been a few minor adjustments and technological advancements, but most were slight improvements on what Clicquot had done. And this is why so many know and respect that yellow label. But the second thing to know is that the other wines by Clicquot are equally amazing, and it was those that I revisited at Flavor that I fell in love with all over again.

The rosé champagnes from Clicquot are amazing. The 2004 Rosé shows a beautiful red hue with a flavor profile that has the same candied fruits and brioche that you find in the NV Rosé with wonderful leathery truffle undertones. For me, the standouts of the night were the 1998 Blanc and La Grande Dame. I love that wonderful brioche and biscuit profile that evolves in vintage champagnes. The 1998 Blanc has all the rich yeasty flavors you expect with light flavors of apples or pears in the background. Right next to it we tasted the 1998 La Grande Dame Brut. If the brut can be described as tree fruit and brioche, this one is better described as lemon zest…it’s bright with Chablis-reminiscent mineral profiles and Nilla wafers (yep, the ones you ate as a kid). The bubbles worked like tiny strands of pearls and made this wine work well with the halibut entrée as well as the cheeses served with dessert. It was my favorite of the night by far!