July 29, 1866: On this day, Barbe-Nicole Clicquot died. Early in the 19th century, French women were taught to be spouses and mothers. At the age of 27, after the passing of her husband, François, Clicquot—a young mother—became the first woman to head a Champagne house. Then, she turned Veuve Clicquot into one of the greatest Champagne houses in the entire world. As the “Grande Dame of Champagne,” Clicquot acted as a pioneer in a time when men dominated the wine industry. She forged on and introduced technical breakthroughs despite having little formal training and a sheltered upbringing. Her innovations are still relevant today. She created the first vintage wine in the industry from the historic 1810 harvest at her Bouzy vineyards. With the classic 1811 vintage, dubbed “The Year of the Comet,” Clicquot cemented the idea the following year. She devised the riddling rack procedure for large manufacturing and gave pink Champagne its modern shape by blending red wine with champagne. When Clicquot broke Napoleonic blockades to provide wines to Russian nobles after the wars, she improved the reputation of her brand. According to Tilar Mazzeo, author of The Widow Clicquot: The Story of a Champagne Empire and the Woman Who Ruled It, even though Clicquot finally handed control of the company and vineyards to male business partners, she left an irreplaceable impact on the sector. She paved the way for the second generation of ambitious women working in the Champagne industry, including Louise Pommery, another well-known widow.
July 29, 2014: On this day, Shadows in the Vineyard: The True Story of the Plot to Poison the World’s Greatest Wine was published. Aubert de Villaine is recognized for being the owner of the Domaine de la Romance-Conti wine cellar in France, one of the most acclaimed and producer of one of the most expensive wines in the world. Maximillian Potter retells the story of how de Villaine received a note in 2010 threatening to poison his wines unless he pays a ransom of one million Euros. The book follows the ups and downs of this real-life crime.
July 29, 2015: On this day, Argentine winemaker and oenologist Susana Balbo was recognized as Woman of the Year by The Drinks Business, recognizing her important career in the world of wine. Balbo is the first woman winemaker in Argentina. She is the founder of Dominio del Plata, a critically acclaimed winery that has been operational since 1999.
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