Why Veuve Clicquot’s pop-up really pops

The champagne maker is shaking things up with a new series of fashionable collaborations, says Alice Lascelles

La Grande Dame is Veuve Clicquot’s prestige cuvée
La Grande Dame is Veuve Clicquot’s prestige cuvée

I love a good party. But I can’t recall the last time I went to one as surreal as the recent bash to launch Souvenir, the pop-up bar created by avant-garde musician St Vincent (aka Annie Clark) for champagne house Veuve Clicquot.

Conceived by St Vincent in collaboration with creative talents such as Brit designer Matty Bovan, former Savoy senior bartender Pippa Guy and design collective Rotganzen, it was an eerie fusion of the futuristic, sophisticated and kinky. We wandered, disorientated, through a mirror-lined maze of pulsating lights, and sipped champagne around a grotesque sculpture of oozing glitter balls. In the basement, white-gloved hands dispensed spoonfuls of yuzu gel and cacao bean paste through a row of “glory holes” cut into the wall. St Vincent roamed the party like an exquisite spectre, one moment running the coat-check, the next, mixing drinks behind the bar.

Dressed in a mystifying Bovan creation that looked like a cross between a pink body-stocking and a helter-skelter, she pressed through the crush, stealing drinks and singing Portishead’s Glory Box a cappella. By the time Björk turned up, wearing a red lace face mask, everyone’s senses were so saturated that nobody gave the Icelander a second glance.

That pop-up is gone, I’m afraid, but there will almost certainly be others. Because Veuve Clicquot has a history of collaborating with exciting women: musician FKA Twigs, Savages front woman Jehnny Beth and former Paris Vogue editor Carine Roitfeld. All strong, artistic individuals who aren’t afraid to speak their mind.

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The original strong woman was, of course, the widow (“veuve”) Clicquot herself. In 1805, at the age of 27, she transformed an ailing family business into a world-renowned champagne house. Today, you can find Veuve Clicquot’s signature non-vintage on just about any high street. But its prestige cuvée, La Grande Dame (£140 from thefinestbubble.com), remains more of an insider favourite. Made from the fruit of six grand-cru vineyards that belonged to the widow, it is Veuve Clicquot for grown-ups: big, opulent, polished. The current 2008 vintage – alas, the last from talented cellar master Dominique Demarville, now at Laurent-Perrier – is positively regal. Almost 100 per cent Pinot Noir, it’s powerful but fresh, with intense stone-fruit notes that surge on a wave of silky fizz.

I’m told that Veuve owner Moët-Hennessy plans to do more to raise La Grande Dame’s profile this year, starting with a series of collaborations with yet-to-be-named female creatives. This news will raise some eyebrows: what can catwalks and canapé glory holes bring to fine wine? That remains to be seen – but I hope I’m on the guest list.

Alice Lascelles is Fortnum & Mason Drinks Writer of the Year 2019. @alicelascelles.

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