Veuve Clicquot is the second most popular champagne in the world, but few people know about the brand’s amazing feminist history. It was built up from the ground by a young woman named Barbe-Nicole Clicquot Ponsardin, a female entrepreneur and CEO who was shattering glass ceilings two centuries before anyone had heard of leaning in.

According to a profile in Adweek, it all began when Francois Clicquot died of typhoid in 1805, leaving behind a failing vineyard in Reims, France.

His wife, Barbe-Nicole Clicquot Ponsardin, had hailed from a wealthy family and easily could have shuttered the business. Instead, she invested her own inheritance in it and took over. She was 27.

Over the next 60 years, Veuve (literally “the widow”) Clicquot expanded her vineyards and introduced champagne to the world at large, notably by targeting Tsar Nicholas I of Russia as a client. But perhaps her most important contribution to the sparkling wine industry is a technical one.


Champagne was a naturally cloudy wine due to the presence of yeast in the bottle, until Madame Clicquot invented something called a riddling table to remove the yeast. The device, which is still used today, is how we arrived at the clear, sparkling liquid we’re used to seeing in our flute glasses.

The lady recognized that visual appeal was of the utmost importance, for both the product and the packaging. She chose a yellow color for her labels that was strikingly bold at the time, and if you look carefully, you’ll see that her signature is still printed on each one.


According to Adweek, Madame Clicquot once wrote that “the world is in perpetual motion, and we must invent the things of tomorrow.” They’re wise words from a visionary, trail-blazing woman; words worth bearing in mind for the year ahead when you pop that champagne cork on New Year’s Eve.

[via Adweek]