Like Disneyland for Champagne Lovers
by Misty I.
Do you enjoy wine? Red or white? Haha…maybe both! My friends and I do too! However, if you like champagne I have little doubt that you have enjoyed a bottle or two of Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin. On a recent trip to Paris, we were lucky enough to visit the Veuve Clicquot Cellars in Reims located in the Champagne region of France. Iʻve heard it described as Disneyland for adults and if you are a champagne lover that is exactly what it feels like to go there. From the moment we secured the reservation we were giddy to go!When my friend first suggested that we visit the Veuve Cellars during our weekend trip to Paris I wondered if it was possible. I was ecstatic and very surprised that it was just a short 45-minute TGV train ride away! I called France that evening to see if Veuve had an opening for a Saturday reservation as we knew that it was a by-appointment-only champagne house. They had a 3:30pm appointment available for the “On the Footsteps of Madame Clicquot” tour so we took it. The website described the tour as A portrait full of finesse of ‘‘La Grande Dame de Champagne’’ and the discovery of the cuvée created in her honour. A tour followed by a tasting of our Yellow Label and our prestigous Cuvée, La Grande Dame 2006. Neither of us had tasted the Cuvée so were very excited.As we made our way through the gates of Veuve Clicquot it really did feel like we were at our “Happiest Place of Earth!” Our tour began on the grounds then we made our way to the crayeres, which are the underground chalk mines that Veuve uses as cellars to store the champagne.After getting used to the very chilly conditions in the seven-hundred-year-old crayeres, we began learning about Madame Clicquotʻs fascinating story. As women, we appreciated her innovative and bold decisions that molded Veuve into what it is today. Madame Clicquot took over the house when she was just 27 years old after her husband died. She appropriately added “Veuve” which means widow in French and from that point on the house became “Veuve Clicquot.”Madame Clicquot later added her maiden name “Ponsardin” to the champagne as a tribute to her roots, hence Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin. Veuve is credited for coming up with the first vintage (all of the grapes are harvested from the same year), and also the riddling table (the bottles are stored at an angle to ensure a sediment-free champagne). Veuve Clicquot was also the first champagne house to use dark colored bottles, like the Cuvée bottle. That day, I also learned that Champagne is a mix of three grape varietals. They are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Those three types are fermented separately then mixed together then fermented again to create a sparkling. Just in case you are wondering, the Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label is made of about 50% Pinot Noir. At the very end of the tour we were able to set our eyes on the 171-year-old bottle, which is now the oldest bottle of Veuve in existence. It was discovered in 2010 by divers who were exploring a sunken ship off the coast of Finland in the Baltic Sea. They found it in perfect condition and through science identified it as Veuve. Unbelievable!The last portion of the tour is when we went to the salon for the best part – the tasting! Our tour guide shared other tidbits of Veuveʻs history and also showed us the proper way to uncork and pour a bottle of Veuve. I wish I could provide a detailed explanation of it but by that point I was longing to taste the champagne and was not very focused.We started with the Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label (which is not yellow to me, but orange) that we have had many times. We welcomed its wonderfully familiar taste and toasted our epic afternoon spent learning about Madame Clicquot. The second champagne we tasted was the 2006 La Grande Dame Cuvée. Though the 2006 is not as coveted as the 1998 it is still a very special vintage champagne, so we sipped slowly.This “special occasion” champagne is a top of the line Veuve offering and has a price tag to match. I wish I had the palate and a sophisticated fancy-schmancy vocabulary to properly describe how it tasted but I just don’t possess that knowledge. I will make no attempts to describe it other than it was “supa good” and “lip-smacking delicious!” Iʻm not sure if I will ever have the privilege of tasting another glass of La Grande Dame Cuvée again, but that is ok because I prefer Veuve Clicquot Ponsardinʻs Yellow Label anyway!If you get asked to bring a bottle to a party this holiday season, the Yellow Label is always a winner! Best of all, you do not need to go to France to purchase the wickedly good Yellow Label as it is readily available at Kadota Liquor right here in Hilo! On second thought, why wait for that holiday party, have a glass tonight and bring that Disneyland-feeling to you! Cheers!