Since the early 1800s, history in Champagne is punctuated by famous stories of women running Champagne houses. Traditionally these houses are passed from father to son but in the tragic event of an untimely death, the ‘veuves’ (widows) assume the control.
The most famous of these is Veuve Clicquot (pictured below) who developed the Champagne making stage still used to this day called ‘riddling’, which removes the yeast sediment in the neck of the bottle more efficiently. Other noteworthy veuves are Jeanne Alexandrine Louise Melin who ran Champagne Pommery and developed a drier Champagne better suited to the then un-tapped UK market.
To this day, Champagne houses are still mostly run by men. In 2017, Champagne Duval-Leroy, run by Carol Duval-Leroy who took over the house in 1991 after the death of her husband, appointed the first woman Chef de Cave: Sandrine Logette-Jardin.
Since then, both Perrier-Jouet and Champagne Henriot have appointed female Cellar Masters. Julie Cavil, the first woman cellar master at Krug heads up a six-strong wine making team that’s half women, half men. The Champagne Committee (CIVC) estimates that about 10% of cellar-master jobs are held by women yet 70% of Champagne is purchased by women.
There have however been some changes, La Transmission is a group of 9 women owners and leaders in Champagne with the aim to make the less-known contribution of women more visible. Melanie Tarlant who is the first woman to run Champagne Tarlant in 12 generations talks about her mother working with her father for 40 years, as did her grandmother and her great grandmother who tended to the vines during the war, yet their stories and the knowledge they passed down are not often talked about.
Les Fa’bulleuses (pictured above) is a feminine association of 7 women working in Champagne to help welcome the next generation and share tips. Importantly female winemakers are often at the forefront of initiatives like more sustainable winemaking.
Bringing more women into the industry has proven to be a strong drive for innovation and change. We can’t wait to see what the future holds.
More articles from the industry about Women in Champagne
Bursting the Bubble, Meet the Female Winemaker Who Popped the Patriarchy
Financial Times, Lascelles A, 2021
You Have the Founding Mothers of Champagne to Thank for the Bubbly You Drink Today
Town & Country, Hubbard L, 2019
In focus: The women shaping Champagne today
The Drinks Business, Shaw L, 2019