Moving right along with the Veuve Clicquot Recipe I’ve been slowly but surely completing for you this week… Since we’ve successfully added one part each of design and ambiance, we’re going to go ahead and fold-in one part expertise today. Successful businesses invariably depend on exceptional people, and VC is no exception, its tradition of expertise having been laid into place by Madame Clicquot. At the ripe age of 27, she took over the family business of wine making from her late husband, Francois Clicquot. The Madame began what what must be considered one of the most impressive careers of the era, both pioneering within her industry, and setting an important example for other aspiring female entrepreneurs. Through brilliant ingenuity of her own, she revolutionized how champagne was made and mass produced when she invented the process of riddling in 1816. She went on to leave her legacy to people whom she trusted, and the brand grew so that when she died in 1866, she was the richest woman in Europe.

Luckily, my Veuve Clicquot experience last week included meeting and learning from Madame Clicquot’s contemporaries. While the guys pictured above are by no means the only experts within the Veuve Clicquot organization, they sure stuck out in my mind. After the jump, I’ll introduce you to them in turn, starting from the left and working right…

The Oenologist. The refined, bubbly, tasty champagne that comes to you in a bottle is the result of a painstakingly lengthy process that involves many variables and, alas, science. Cyril Brun is the expert when it comes to deciphering the attributes and character of grapes so that the appropriate blend of grapes makes it into the bottle. Sweet, minerally, acidic… which goes where? Ask Cyril.

The Guy on the Ground. Chrisitan Renard, Veuve Clicquot’s Vineyards Director, is the guy on the ground with mud on his soles and soil in his veins. Overseeing the raw materials of production (grapes in this case) is central to the quality of the end product, and from what we saw in Reims, Monsieur Renard has the job covered. We followed him from the Verzy Vineyard to the Verzy Crushing Facility where he imparted upon us his knowledge of soil attributes, atmospheric factors and their impact on the harvest, and finally, how the grapes get crushed (it’s not as simple as one would think!).

The Cellar Master. During a long dinner at Chateau Les Crayéres in Reims, I had the honor of sitting next to Veuve Clicquot’s incoming Cellar Master, Dominique Demarville. Dominique has over twenty years of experience in his field, and has already been on board with VC for three years, transitioning into the current Cellar Master’s role. At dinner, our meal took the form of a multi-course (I don’t even remember how many) food and champagne interface where we used the food as a mechanism to learn more about the various types of champagne. Dominique’s clear knowledge of the nuanced flavor attributes of the different champagnes had us all crossing our fingers that our answers for our favorite parings would match up with his. He kept telling us that — in the end — it’s all about personal taste, but I think he was just trying to make us feel better for having missed the boat completely on some of our picks.

The Professor. Edouard de Nazelle is quite the character. He’s the guy who drives the custom painted ’66 Bentley S3 I showed you yesterday. He’s also a direct descendent of one of Madame Clicquot’s closest business partners, for all intents and purposes making him one of the last remaining members of the Clicquot-Ponsardin Family. In his blood he carries the story of Veuve Clicquot, and the short day we had with him only allowed for a small sliver of the knowledge he has of the history of the brand–suffice to say, it was more information that I had room for.

The introductions aside, I’ll leave you with some photos of some of the experts, caught in candid moments…

The Master Disgorger (I believe he had over 25 years experience ejecting the sediment from the neck of the bottle–the old fashion way, but I can’t remember his name) and Cyril Brun doing some product testing (that looks like a Rosé, a ’78 maybe?) (photo courtesy of Xavier Lavictoire)

Cyril Brun and Edouard de Nazelle chillaxing on the Karim Rashid-designed Loveseat (photo courtesy of Xavier Lavictoire).

Chrisitan Renard, VC’s Vineyards Director, explaining to us how and why the grape crushers crush the grapes slllloooowwwwllllyyy…

Edouard de Nazelle raising a glass (and a bottle) to the one who made it all possible, Madame Clicquot…