Jeanne Krug: Mme Krug married into the 3rd generation of House Krug. She distinguished herself not as a widow, but as a formidable leader and an heroic individual during her husband’s imprisonment in Germany between 1915 and 1917. A young woman and mother of a toddler, she guided the winery through the First World War. During the thousand-day bombardment of Reims that destroyed 80% of the village, Mme Krug opened up the House Krug cellars to shelter Reims citizens and troops during the bombardment, providing a school, chapel and infirmary in the cellars. She also led the champagne house through harvests and produced a vintage champagne in 1915.
Remaining involved in House Krug after her husband’s return, Mme Krug continued her heroic and philanthropic acts throughout her lifetime. During WWII, she was twice arrested by the Gestapo for smuggling secrets to Spain, and after the War, she helped establish an American Hospital in Reims. For her bravery and benevolent acts, France awarded her the Military Cross, the Resistance Medal, and the Legion of Honor.
Camille Olry-Roederer: Mme Roederer married into the Champagne Louis Roederer house, but lost her husband in 1932 during the Great Depression. Considered an outsider, she fired the staff and surrounded herself with those she trusted in her desperation to save Champagne Louis Roederer from bankruptcy. In 1945, she released the estate’s flagship prestige cuvée, Cristal, to the general public. A lover of haute couture, Mme Roederer glamorized Louis Roederer and Cristal to the extent that it was the champagne to enjoy at every event from a horse race to Studio 54. Cristal lives on as the choice beverage of the rich and famous, and Champagne Louis Roederer pays tribute to Mme Roederer in their Camille Hommage wines.
Lily Bollinger: After she lost her husband and business partner Jacques Bollinger in 1941, Mme Bollinger navigated her company through Nazi-occupied France. Walking the fine line between resistance and Vichy, she regularly supplied the Germans with free champagne to keep them out of her business. In August of 1944, when her hometown of Aÿ was bombed, Mme Bollinger opened up the Bollinger cellars to the citizens and arranged for funerals, earning the village’s respect.
Mme Bollinger’s contribution to Champagne tradition is RD—recently disgorged. She realized that aged champagne had a more pleasurable and unique flavor profile when the lees were removed—or disgorged—as close as possible to the time that the wine is enjoyed. In 1967, she released a number of old vintages recently disgorged and then finished dry, like an extra brut. These champagnes combined the complexity of an aged wine with a unique freshness. It was an excellent example of brand extension. Bollinger RD wines are still available today.
From Grandes Dames to Grandes Femmes
The women leaders of today’s champagne houses are as innovative as their antecedents. According to the website Delectabulles.com, 40% of wine estates in Champagne are managed by women, compared to 27% in the rest of France.
Women champagne winemakers now have the benefit of connection, mutual support and inspiration. They are assisted in this by two groups that empower women's leadership, training and support in winemaking: La Transmission and Les Fa’bulleuses.
La Transmission (‘The Transmission’) is a group of 9 women champagne winemakers united by their love of the region's history and a goal of highlighting women’s contributions to champagne.
Les Fa’Bulleuses (‘The Fabulous’, a play on the French word for bubbles, bulles), a group of 7, plans to mentor the next generation of women champagne makers. They are light-hearted but serious-minded about their goals. Group member Laureen Baillette of Champagne Baillette-Prudhomme describes the group’s objective as promoting “delicate wines made by daring women.”
Plume Ridge offers champagne from woman-owned and Champagne Duménil, led by Frédérique Poret, a 5th generation member of the Duménil family. Mme Poret took over the estate from her father in 2000. She later married Hughes Poret of the Jany Poret Champagne estate. The estates were combined in 2006.
Champagne Duménil makes only Premier Crus from Chigny-les-Roses and Rilly-la-Montagne et Ludes. Plume Ridge offers 4 Duménil champagnes: Duménil Grande Réserve Champagne (375ml), the Brut Rosé, and the Duménil Special Club Tresors Champagne, 2015, (awarded 95 pts from Decanter). For a taste of the marriage of two great Champagne estates, check out Duménil by Jany Poret.
Patty Lyn Tweten is a writer, graphic designer and Pinot Noir vineyard owner. Working exclusively in the wine industry, her writing inspiration comes from visual design work and her own front yard. Website Facebook Instagram Linkedin