by Sommelier Robin Obert

So, last month we had a bit of background surrounding Francois and Barbe-Nicole who were secretly married in the caves under the city of Reims. Francois was a dreamer. His every intent was to reinvent his family’s business. They too were a textile family. They were also minor wine merchants.

Although very business savvy, Barbe-Nicole was hesitant to follow Francois dream, but as we will see, in the end she finally did. Land wasn’t an issue for the young and newly married couple. Both families gave the couple an incredibly generous amount of land. They were also given quite a sum of money to begin their lives together. At this point in their lives making wine was not even a consideration, Francois simply wanted to grow their sales in wine.

The textile trade was still the main focus. But, Francois had a dream. His goal was to sell wine on the international market which at that time was not a wise move. Most of Europe was at war, temperature shifts and violent conditions destroyed the wine as it crossed over land and sea. Francois agreed with his newly found investors that he would proceed when the warring ceased. So, instead of moving forward with importing his wines he began to intently research wine producers and their wines instead.

Finally in 1801 the war ended, a treaty was signed and Francois felt comfortable fully pursuing his vision to go international with the family business. For Barbe-Nicole this was life altering. Barbe-Nicole found herself alone to care for the children, the existing vineyards and the family business for months at a time. Nobody realized what a shrewd and brilliant business woman she was. They were about to find out soon enough!

Francois became very aggressive in his sales approach, in the past the buyers had to trust the integrity of the sales person. Francois had a brilliant marketing technique. He took a sample of the wine to the potential clients. He began educating his buyers and gaining their trust. Barbe-Nicole had no idea what support she had in the ranks of the working women. As she began reaching out she realized that there were dozens of very influential women in the wine making world. She also discovered that at the time, over 50% of the wine purchased by the giant Moet was produced by women.

Barbe-Nicole was about to understand that these women were not necessarily producing some incredible wines out of passion, rather, a large percentage did so because they were widows! It’s doubtful that she had inkling that one day soon she too would become a member of that club. Such an amazing woman! So little space to tell the story, but, I’ll have more about this fascinating woman next month!