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True to this heritage, the House is proud of its motto: "Only one quality, the finest."
In its history there have been only 11 Cellar Masters at Veuve Clicquot. This has resulted in a never-ending quest for quality and ensured the continuity of the Veuve Clicquot style: strength and complexity.
Veuve Clicquot prides itself on excellence and quality.
More than 1000 still wines tasted each year
400 reserve wines from 17 different years
5 to 6 months of tasting
Twice the standard maturation
Minimum of 6 months bottle ageing after dosage
Didier Mariotti, the 11th Cellar Master in over 250 years
2 winemakers tasting the wines
Blends of up to 50% of reserve wines, versus 20% for the vast majority of champagnes
In the six Veuve Clicquot pressing centers, whole bunch pressing is applied, allowing the juice to be clear without color nor phenolics and preserving fresh fruit flavours and high acidity to obtain the maximum of finesse.
To take full advantage of the specific characteristics of each Champagne terroir, Veuve Clicquot carries out separate winemaking processes for each grape variety, fraction and cru in one of the 29 presses. As a result, beginning with the pressing process, the unique character of each grape’s provenance is carefully respected.
The maximum authorised yield of must for every one "marc" (the pressing unit for 4000 kg of grapes) is 2550 litres. This can then be broken down into 2050 litres of "cuvée" (the first and best-balanced juice) and 500 litres of "tailles". In the interest of quality, Veuve Clicquot generally uses only the "cuvée".
The musts obtained from the presses rest for 15 hours in vats for “débourbage” (the process by which the solids - or bourbes - suspended in the musts are left to settle to the bottom of the vats).
In order to trigger alcoholic fermentation, cultured yeasts are added to the musts in the stainless steel vats, maintained at a steady l8°C. After eight to ten days of alcoholic fermentation, we obtain a still wine with 11% alcohol - or in other words, non-sparkling wine - which is then subjected to a first blind tasting by our wine makers.
Veuve Clicquot mainly conducts the malolactic conversion in order to smoothen acidity and develop a new range of aromas. Nevertheless since 2018, in response of warmer harvests and in order to preserve the freshness of its blends, Veuve Clicquot decides to stop malolactic conversion in some wineries.
The use of stainless-steel vat is preferred to preserve fruit flavors and respect terroir characteristics.
A small percentage of the wine is fermented and aged in large oak barrels to be used in the vintage and Cave Privée collection. They bring well integrated tannins and develop the structure of these wines in a full-bodied style.
A tasting committee of the first order (8 oenologists), under the leadership of Didier Mariotti, our Cellar Master, meets from November to March to taste the wines destined for the blends.
More than 1000 wines are tasted and ranked by category. Each wine will be assigned to the year's cuvée, to the reserve, to the vintage wines if required, or simply discarded if it does not meet the House's quality criteria.
Blending is a subtle art: it requires not only assessing the wines as they are today, but also the ability to anticipate how they will develop in the future. The blending team must also comb through the reserve wines, kept for 1 to 30 years, to uncover the typical flavours that will uphold the Veuve Clicquot style in light of the wines' harvest year.
Veuve Clicquot Brut Yellow Label is blended using approximately fifty different crus, of which 25 to 50% is reserved wines. In good harvest years, the Tasting Committee, made up of the Cellar Master and his team, decides to create a vintage wine, a champagne composed exclusively of wines from that harvest year: Vintage, La Grande Dame. These wines share the potential to age exceptionally well.
The wine is then drawn, or put in bottles, before a tirage liquor is added along with yeasts in order to trigger the "prise de mousse," the step in which a still wine becomes sparkling. The second alcoholic fermentation creates excess pressure in the hermetically sealed bottle, causing the wine to become sparkling.
Then the bottles are laid horizontally on lees to age. This step is extremely important as the slow autolysis of the yeasts is essential for quality. The bottles are aged in the Veuve Clicquot medieval chalk tunnels in Reims, the Crayères, safely away from any light and vibrations, at a constant temperature of 10-12°C.
At Veuve Clicquot, all non-vintages are aged for a minimum of thirty months and vintage wines for a minimum of five years. La Grande Dame is aged for a minimum 7 years.
As a perfectionist, Madame Clicquot wrote: "Ourwines must be flattering both to the palate and to the eye." Thus in 1816, Madame Clicquot invented the first riddling table, ancestor of the rack, in order to obtain clear wines. This method was later adopted by all the Champagne houses and is still used today.
Riddling involves collecting the sediment of dead yeasts in the neck of the bottle to facilitate extraction. One or several daily rotations (one quarter, one eighth, one sixteenth of a turn) are needed. The operation is carried out in an increasing inclined position.
Today, the riddling process is semi-automatic and semi-manual. Only bottles of La Grande Dame and large formats are riddled by hand. The traditional expertise of the riddler involves precise movements which are fascinating and require a lot of experience. They are a valuable intangible heritage that the House seeks to preserve and pass on.
The neck of the bottle is then cooled to a minus 26° C. Trapped in a block of ice, the deposit is forced out by the pressure when the cap is removed. This process is known as disgorging.
Dosage is part of Veuve Clicquot style. After a few months of ageing post disgorgement, reaction of Maillard will slowly develop its typical pastry and bready aromas.
Veuve Clicquot champagnes are very lightly dosed (9 grams/litre for the Brut Yellow Label).
The bottles are corked and muzzled by a twist of wire, known as the 'muselet', which keeps a metal cap, showing an image of Madame Clicquot, in place on top of the cork. Veuve Clicquot corks only come from Portugal and Spain made from the best quality and are subjected to strict tests.
After an additional resting period of several months to perfect the mix of aromas, the bottles are inspected visually and dressed: cap, collar, label and back label. Veuve Clicquot also cultivates its unique style through its packaging which is regularly subject to numerous innovations and exclusive designs.
Once packaged in cardboard, or wooden boxes for certain vintages, they can be shipped.