Saturday, July 27, 2013


Well, folks, it’s a boy…and I’m not just talking about the newest addition to the British royal family. This week marked not just the appearance of Prince George on July 22 but also my father-in-law’s birthday on the 25th. Tonight we celebrated by uncorking a big bottle of some pretty fancy champagne. Veuve Clicquot-Ponsardin holds a royal warrant from her Majesty the Queen as “Purveyors of Champagne.”

The Clicquot champagne house was founded by Philippe Clicquot in 1772 in Reims, France. His 27 year-old widow (whose physical appearance I refuse to describe. I refuse; I refuse; I refuse. No!) took over the business in 1805, making her one of the first business women in modern times. She carried the brand to massive success, overseeing the house during the famous 1811 Comet Vintage and making advances that helped to modernize the production of champagne, thereby earning her the title “La Grande Dame” of Champagne. The brand is today known by its signature yellow label, which was trademarked in 1877.  

Veuve Clicquot (veuve means widow, by the way) is one of many French champagne houses holding a British royal warrant. Although the majority of the royal warrant holders are British businesses (or at least started that way), the champagne houses are a notable exception. You can’t make champagne in England, and if you’re entertaining as often as the royal family is, you need some expensive champagne.

I love champagne and sparkling wine and all drinks bubbly, so I couldn’t wait for my first foray into champagne. We opened our bottle, poured it into five dainty glasses, and all took a sip at the same time.
And it tasted terrible.

Was I not supposed to write that? Or, to go in a different direction: Am I missing something? Has my enjoyment of $12 moscato from Trader Joe’s ruined my ability to enjoy good champagne? I don’t think so. The taste was at first pretty smooth but then the finish was all acerbic and vinegary. Adam’s dad described it as “tinny,” and he cringed as he took a second drink. I started to wonder if maybe our bottle had gone bad. As I kept drinking it (of course I kept drinking it), it got better, but Adam’s brother made fun of me when I admitted that and mimicked me with slurred speech.
Hmm. I thought I’d dig into this a little deeper online, but I couldn’t find much when I Googled ‘Veuve Clicquot tastes bad’. I did find people calling it overpriced or suggesting it was overrated, but that’s about it.

According to VC’s website, their champagne is actually somewhat infamous for retaining its original flavor. In what the website terms “a miraculous Baltic Sea discovery in 2010,” bottles of 200 year-old Veuve Clicquot champagne were found in a shipwreck off the coast of Finland. It stresses that the bottles were “extremely well preserved” and “testament to the impeccable quality of our wines.” See—this stuff doesn’t go bad. We certainly didn’t dunk it into the bottom of the ocean or leave it for two centuries before drinking it. This brand has a fantastic history and is famous worldwide, but I don’t think it lives up to the hype.

I guess I’ll leave the last word to the birthday boy himself, Adam’s dad (if only because Prince George can’t talk yet): “I think this is the perfect champagne to use for christening a boat.”
Where to buy: This is widely available worldwide. In Chicago we’ve found it at Binny’s, Treasure Island, and Target.