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The Widow Clicquot: The Story of a Champagne…

The Widow Clicquot: The Story of a Champagne Empire and the Woman Who… (2008)

by Tilar J. Mazzeo

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The subtitle is all the synopsis anyone needs: The Story of a Champagne Empire and the Woman Who Ruled It.

Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin was born on the eve of the French Revolution. Her wealthy father read the signs of change and positioned himself to ride the wave, saving his textile business, his homes, his fortune and his family. When Barb-Nicole was of age, she married Francois Clicquot, the only son of another wealthy textile merchant, whose family had begun to dabble in wine. As fate would have it, Francois died before his vision was realized, but his young widow took over and cornered the market before anyone realized what she was doing. The dynasty she built remains today as one of the premier champagne houses.

The author, in an effort to not misrepresent, frequently qualifies statements with “perhaps” or “might have.” Mazzeo herself writes about this lack of information.
It is a surprisingly thin biographical record, considering Barbe-Nicole’s celebrity and accomplishments, and writing this book has been an exercise in the oblique. … I wanted to discover not just what she did and when she lived, but how she was able to imagine for herself a different future and how she was able to negotiate those familiar crossroads of grief, despair, and opportunity.

I appreciate that Mazzeo was stymied by scarce records, few (if any) letters or documents that would support a definitive and declarative portrait, and that she wanted to produce a work of non-fiction, not a fictionalized biography. But the result, in my humble opinion, is a book that gives me facts but never brings the lady at the center of the story to life.

I love champagne, though I admit to never having sampled Veuve Clicquot. I also love reading about strong, independent women, especially when they were clearly ahead of their time. But I was bored for much of this book. I wanted more of Barbe-Nicole, herself. ( )
  BookConcierge | Sep 13, 2018 |
historically accurate and interesting especially since the main character is a woman living in a time when women were considered incapable of running a business ( )
  Pat_Gibson | May 28, 2017 |
I'll never drink a glass of champagne the same way again. This was an interesting look at a female entepreneur in the early - mid 1800's, a time when most women were nowhere to be seen in public life. There is some interesting stuff about the development of champagne but it is more about her extraordinary life. ( )
  Eye_Gee | May 8, 2017 |
This was pretty dry reading (pun intended), but I did learn a lot about one of my favorite drinks: Champagne.

Barbe Nicole Poussardin Clicquot was born during th French Revolution to a very well off family who for obvious switched sides during & after the revolution.

It wasn't until after she was married that she & her husband began dabbling in wine making.

Champagne was Not "discovered" by Dom Perirgnon...most ALL wines vinted in the area of Champagne France had bubbles due to climate conditions. Dom Perignon was trying to find a way to get rid of the bubbles. Later, bubbles were added in a second fermentation process by including more yeast & sugar to the already fermented wine.

Champagne was originally a dark color and a very sweet dessert wine.....

Champagne is made from only 3 types of grapes.....

Vintage refers to the fact that all the grapes used came from the same harvest

The sweetness or tartness indication is opposite of still wines. A tart still wine is labeled "Dry". Whereas a tart Champagne is labeled Brut or Natural. A "Dry" Champagne is sweet.

I knew much of this information prior to reading the book, but it was interesting to know the history of the process. The history part was rather boring and written in an over scholarly style for my taste. ( )
  Auntie-Nanuuq | Jan 18, 2016 |
I found the book by accident several years ago on the shelves of Barnes & Noble, and used it as the basis for several door prize/gifts for a charity to which I belong. I put the book and a bottle of Champagne in a box as a door prize. A few months ago, I found that the recorded version of this book was on sale from the publisher for $4.99, so I purchased it. My real life book discussion group does a biography book talk each January, and this was a biography so I plunked it into the CD player in the car and started listening. The author spends a great deal of time throughout the book lamenting the fact that there is so little information about the Widow Clicquot that it gets tiresome. Even so, she managed to write a 250 page book with another 50 pages, or so, of end notes and index. Not bad for no information on a person. That said, the book may be thin on personal biographical information about this powerful woman entrepreneur but it more than makes up for this lack with information about the company that the Widow Clicquot ran for 45 years. The book is chock full of information about wine making and the wine industry. In my opinion, the author is much too apologetic about this book. I wanted to shout - "Have some confidence in your book and your subject." Other than that it was a good biography. ( )
1 vote benitastrnad | Jan 23, 2015 |
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Prologue: This is the story of French champagne, but it didn't start amid the splendor of a countryside chateau.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0061288586, Paperback)

Amazon Best of the Month, October 2008: With its trademark fizz and sparkling taste, champagne has long been the beverage of choice for those in a celebratory mood. From the artillery of popping corks on New Year's Eve to the clinking of newlywed glasses, a bit of the bubbly has locked arms with good cheer for centuries. Yet had it not been for the pioneering Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin, the libation deemed "the wine of civilization" by Winston Churchill might today be available only to the excessively wealthy or extremely lucky. Author Tilar J. Mazzeo toasts the élan of Champagne's Grand Dame with The Widow Clicquot, a fascinating story of the cunning bravery and good fortune that helped build the Veuve Clicquot brand. Widowed at age twenty-seven by the death of her husband François Clicquot, Barbe-Nicole assumed control of her family’s wine business amid the chaos of The Napoleonic Wars. That she became a prominent female leader in a male-dominated industry was one thing; building an empire amid savage political unrest was quite another. With passionate research and true admiration for her subject, Mazzeo pays homage to the beloved Widow from Reims and the remarkable weight her name still carries today. -Dave Callanan

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:14 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Veuve Clicquot champagne epitomizes glamour, style, and luxury. But who was this young widow--the Veuve Clicquot--whose champagne sparkled at the courts of France, Britain, and Russia, and how did she rise to celebrity and fortune? Cultural historian Mazzeo brings to life the woman behind the iconic yellow label: Barbe-Nicole Clicquot Ponsardin. A young witness to the French Revolution and a new widow during the chaotic years of the Napoleonic Wars, Barbe-Nicole defied convention by assuming--after her husband's death--the reins of the fledgling wine business they had nurtured, and became one of the world's first great businesswomen and one of the richest women of her time. This book provides a glimpse into the life of a daring and determined entrepreneur, a bold risk taker, and an audacious and intelligent woman who took control of her own destiny when fate left her on the brink of financial ruin.--From publisher description.… (more)

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