If I could condense the knowledge of all of my wine experience into one bit of wisdom to pass on, just a big glittering generality to guide your sail in the sea of oenophilia, it would be this: Veuve Clicquot is bad.
Veuve Clicquot is not repulsive. You don’t have to spit it out. I will happily drink Veuve Clicquot if it is free and there is nothing better available. It is champagne after all. But it’s bad for the overall wine ecosystem. I do not know any wine lovers who think it is a good champagne, and a bottle is obviously not a good value. Veuve really doesn’t taste like much. This isn’t a problem for people who only drink champagne when it is gifted to them or because it is fancy in and of itself, but I do feel like it should concern the average gal shelling out a median price of $60 for what is meant to be an extravagant and enjoyable drinking experience.
The nicest thing I can say about Veuve Clicquot is that it is the most acceptable impersonal gift between adults. It is alcohol that comes with an air of celebration, and most people have an idea of what it costs. This is important because that is usually what is being conveyed in these types of gifts. When someone gets a bottle of Veuve Clicquot, unlike a better but lesser-known wine, they understand that it is $60, so for some, especially those who don’t know anything about Champagne, cost and branding is enough to titillate.
And then there is the matter of the marketing, specifically the bright orange box Veuve Clicquot is known for. My friend who runs a wine bar called it “the worst product in the best packaging,” adding that “it tastes like vocal fry.” Big name champagnes that come in cardboard boxes and tins are the bane of every wine retailer, because people will buy them no matter what. If you’re going to give it up for a wine box, let it be made out of wood at least.
And in addition to not being very good for champagne, these wines usually have very low margins, which means it’s not even beneficial for stores to carry them unless they are bought in large quantities to offer competitive enough pricing. This leads to window displays and prominent end cap placements to make sure that Veuve Clicquot sells, even if shop owners would rather sell better wine, which honestly, not all of them do.
I’m only saying this because champagne can be great, even at such a high entry-level cost. There are champagnes made by smaller producers and labels that can actually captivate you with mouthwatering floral blanc-de-blancs, and rosé champagnes bursting with aroma, but you will never know them if you don’t think outside of the orange box. Also, to be fair, some bigger champagne houses do make good wine. I like Pol Roger, whose brut reserve does also come in a box if that is still important to you.
The ways Veuve Clicquot is bad are endemic to the ways many wines and other luxury goods are bad: mass production and enough marketing to sell people on the idea of something rather than the art of it. But with every passing year of unpredictable weather and catastrophic conditions in Champagne and historic wine regions all over, it’s so much more important to notice and enjoy the actual good stuff while it’s still around.
Hate to burst your bubble, but Veuve Clicquot is not it.