Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin was founded in 1772 by Philippe Clicquot-Muiron, but it was his daughter-in-law, Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin who would catapult it to greatness. At the death of her husband, Francois, Madam Clicquot took over the estate, abandoning other endeavors in wool trading and banking, to focus solely on Champagne. And what a job she did. Trumpeting the brand throughout Europe, Veuve Clicquot, with its distinctive yellow label, was soon a favorite of Queen Elizabeth II and the Russian nobility, especially. Her most important contribution, however, was the development of the riddling rack, which made the process of dègorgement -- removing the lees without losing the liquid -- much easier and cheaper, allowing for mass production of the wine. The empire that Madam Clicquot built includes 360 hectares of vines, including 12 of the 17 Grand Crus in Champagne. Mostly planted on hillsides, which allow the grapes more sun exposure and better drainage, the varieties consist of 47% Chardonnay, 42% Pinot Noir and 11% Pinot Meunier. Clicquot Ponsardin's Pinot based wines are noted for being full-bodied, toasty and deep. Often a moderate dosage(reportedly higher for the American market) accentuates the impression of size. The tÕŽte de cuvèe Grande Dame is especially dense and powerful, best suited to matching with foods as one would a white Burgundy.