Thursday, October 29, 2009

German winemakers in the World: Eduard Werle --- Owner of the Veuve Cliquot Champagne House (France)

Pictures: Veuve Cliquot label and Madame Veuve Cliquot Ponsardin

Eduard Werle was born near Frankfurt am Main in Germany. After finishing school, he moved to France and joined the Veuve Cliquot Champagne house for an apprenticeship as cellar man. Over the years, he rose in the company to the point of taking over the management and the ownership of the company. For many years, the Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin estate was fully owned and run by the Werle family.

Originally, the Clicquot company, established in 1772 by Philippe Clicquot, was dealing not only in champagne, but principally in textiles and finance. In 1801, Philippe handed control of the company to his son, François. At that time, François was already married to Nicole-Barbe Ponsardin, the future Veuve Clicquot. When François died shortly afterwords, his wife took control at age 27 only, in a move unprecedented in a world where business was still the domain of men.

Under the tenure of Nicole-Barbe the company did very well initially, in part thanks to the chef de caves, Antoine Müller, also a German, with whom Nicole-Barbe invented the system of remuage, but also because of her successful marketing efforts. Veuve Clicquot played an important role in establishing champagne as a favored drink of haute bourgeoisie and nobility throughout Europe, including Russia.

The remuage technique invented by her and Mueller revolutionized sparkling wine drinking. It remains a key elemement in the production of Champagne until today. As a result of the remuage,it would no longer be necessary to decant the sparkling wine before serving it, or to leave it in the glass for the sediment to settle before drinking it.

In 1810, the Champagne house was renamed Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin estate. But when in 1817, daughter Clémentine, married Comte Louis de Chevigné, under his unfluence, the fortunes of the Clicquot Ponsardin Champagne house turned sour and the time of the Werle family came.

Eduard Werle was borne on October 31, 1801 in Wetzlar/Germany. His father was an officer at the post office in Hattersheim. After school, Eduard moved to the Champagne region and joined the Cliquot company for an apprenticeship as cellar man. Over the years, he rose in the ranks and when the financial crisis hit the Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Champagne house, he was already a wealthy senior manager and ready to assume responsability. The decline of the finances could have meant the end of the Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Champagne house, were it not for the fact that Eduard Werle succeeded in putting together a rescue package and paying off the firm's debts with his own money. In return, he was made a business partner by Madame Clicquot in 1828. Over the coming years, she increasingly relied on Eduard Werle as he put the company back on a sound footing.

During the French Revolution of 1830, the July Revolution, which saw the overthrow of King Charles X, the French Bourbon monarch, and the ascent of his cousin Louis-Philippe, the Duc d’Orleans, Eduard Werle temporarily had to relocate and abandoned the company to go back to Germany. But after the revolution, he returned to Reims to continue to run the finances of the company. He became Deputy Director in 1831. In 1836, he married M. Boisseau.

Eduard Werle assumed full control of the Veuve Clicquot estate in 1841 upon Nicole-Barbe's retirement, 20 years after he had joined the company as a cellar man. 25 years later, when Madame Clicquot died in 1866, in her will, she did not give the company to her daughter or her son-in-law. She was so grateful to Eduard Werle that she made him the sole owner of the Veuve Clicquot estate. Together with his son, Alfred Werle, Eduard lead the House Clicquot to the top of French champagne estates. Eduard’s son Alfred took over from him in 1884. Under his tenure, the company bought a lot of land and expanded the Veuve Clicquot-Ponsardin vineyards considerably.

The Champagne House was renamed Werlé & Cie., Successeurs de Veuve Clicquot-Ponsardin, when Eduard became the sole owner. The Champagne house continued to operate under this name until 1964, when it became Veuve Clicquot-Ponsardin again. Since 1987 the Veuve Clicquot company has been part of the Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy group.

In 1831, Eduard Werle became a French citizen. In 1843 he became a Deputy of the Reims city council and was the Mayor of Reims from 1850 to 1868. Since 1862, he also was member of the French parliament.

He died in 1884.

1 comment:

  1. What you've recounted is really an amazing story. There are those who really have a destiny. It's my favorite champagne and I never knew why part of the name was "Veuve" but now I have learned. Vielen Danke!