Original title : Jean-Marc Gallot – Maintaining the spirit of Veuve Clicquot
Some people seem destined to inspire future generations. With their daring, their determination and their vision, these pioneers leave a mark that lasts beyond their lifetime.
This is true of Jean-Marc Gallot, who is President and CEO of the second largest champagne house in the world. Through his hard work, he has rejuvenated Veuve Clicquot, a veritable institution for nearly 250 years. Around a bottle of La Grande Dame 2006, he shared his vision for the brand, and his admiration for the woman who inspired it: Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin.
“She was just 27 years old in 1805 when her husband died. Her father-in-law tried very hard to dissuade her from taking over the Maison Clicquot, as women were not permitted to run businesses. However, she decided to do it anyway and embarked on a bold course of innovation and international development,” explains Gallot.
Constantly seeking to improve her product, she produced the world’s very first vintage champagne in 1810. Continuing in the spirit of experimentation, Ponsardin invented the riddling table in 1816, which is used to clarify the wine before the sediment is removed (disgorgement). Inspired by her neverending quest for innovation, in 1877 the Maison Veuve Clicquot created its now instantly recognizable yellow label, rooting the brand’s image in history.
“You have to admire the sheer audacity of her position that, while it is good to sell champagne in France, it is even better to sell it around the world, even without permission. It was the time of the Napoleonic wars and France was under embargo, but she decided to start exporting her products to Russia. When she ultimately succeeded, nothing could stop her,” adds Gallot.
A man who enjoys challenges, Jean-Marc Gallot joined the brand in 2014, with the aim of modernizing Veuve Clicquot.
“Before I took over at Ruinart in 2009, I knew very little about the world of champagne. I enjoyed the good things in life, but did not have a very clear idea of what was involved in running a champagne house. However, one of the joys and opportunities of working for a group like LVMH is being asked to do a job that you have never considered doing before. You take only a minute to think, and then jump into the unknown,” he recalls.
To underscore the boldness of its founder, the Maison Veuve Clicquot decided to launch its first prestige cuvée in 1972. Called “La Grande Dame,” this vintage is a true symbol of what the champagne house does best—a complex wine with purity and minerality.
The same year, it established the Veuve Clicquot Business Woman Award. Given annually, this prize celebrates accomplished businesswomen who meet challenges with a strong entrepreneurial spirit and exhibit audacity, creativity and talent: in other words, worthy heirs of “The Great Lady of Champagne” herself.
As a brand that seeks to continuously engage the interest of its devotees, Veuve Clicquot has reinvention in its DNA. Accordingly, it decided to rebrand its Business Woman Award as the Bold Woman Award. The new program aims to recognize new models of female success and reflect the changes in society that have occurred since 1972.
“First, it is important to give credit where credit is due. When the brand celebrated its 200th anniversary in 1972, the year the first La Grande Dame vintage was launched, the idea of an award honouring businesswomen was rather bold. However, the Business Woman Award is now in its 48th year, and we have realized that simply awarding a prize is not enough to recognize an entrepreneurial woman. The idea behind the Bold Woman Award is that these women must inspire others,” explains Gallot.
The new program was redesigned to be more inclusive, create a greater impact and increase its international visibility to highlight the boldness of successful women in various fields. It is rolled out around the world at various key times of the year and serves as a source of inspiration for other women, in all fields. The award continues to recognize female entrepreneurs in order to identify the role models of today and tomorrow. With their inspiring journeys, these women have carved their own paths and their names will become synonymous with boldness, just like Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin Clicquot.
“Women are just as entrepreneurial as men, if not more so. However, women know there are sometimes social barriers, so it is a riskier choice for them. They also feel the need to be inspired by examples of successful women. However, when conducting a survey on female entrepreneurship, only 20% of women could name an inspiring female entrepreneur,” notes Gallot.
“This shows that while women accomplish amazing things, they are not receiving the reach they deserve, and therefore are unable to motivate other women to go into business for themselves. We want to spotlight these women, so they are recognized, and enable them to help each other.”
It is very likely that Madame Clicquot herself would approve of this new international approach, designed for greater impact and inclusion.