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The Widow Clicquot: The Story of a Champagne Empire and the Woman Who Ruled It (P.S.) Paperback – October 6, 2009
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“The Widow Clicquot is someone we should all know about.... Long a shadowy, legend-obscured figure, in Tilar Mazzeo’s agile hands the widow sheds her weeds and takes form before our eyes as a distinctly modern entrepreneur....The result is narrative history that fizzes with life and feeling.” (Benjamin Wallace, author of the New York Times bestseller, The Billionaire's Vinegar)
“Told in a light and graceful style that is just right for its subject…. [I]t’s a fascinating trip, made even more so by Ms. Mazzeo’s charming cameo appearances as a kind of tour guide…. This example of Barbe-Nicole’s voice is exceptional…an intoxicating business biography.” (Julia Flynn Siler, The Wall Street Journal)
“The Widow Clicquot, Tilar J. Mazzeo’s sweeping oenobiography of Barbe-Nicole Clicquot Ponsardin, is the story of a woman who was a smashing success long before anyone conceptualized the glass ceiling.” (New York Times Book Review)
“Mazzeo’s resulting book is an enticing stew of biography and history.” (USA Today)
“If you like champagne, “The Widow Clicquot” by Tilar J. Mazzeo is definitely worth a drink.” (Associated Press)
“Tilar J. Mazzeo’s informed and enlightening biography of Madame Clicquot, the widow and, more important, the businesswoman, retrieves her vintage story as if looking for a rare bottle in one of the Champagne region’s deepest caves.” (Newsday)
“This book is full of fascinating morsels of information.” (Canberra Times)
The Widow Clicquot is a miraculous feat of organization, one worthy of a doctoral thesis…. [I]n its moments of action, this is actually a gripping story. And while the book appears to be a feminist history/business biography, it’s also the appealing story of the author’s odyssey. (Austin Chronicle)
“Mazzeo’s tale moves swiftly through Barbe-Nicole’s many accomplishments, including her method for storing bottles nose-downan innovation that allowed the second fermentation detritus to be cleared efficiently, setting her far ahead of her competitors.” (Los Angeles Times)
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Top Customer Reviews
The Widow Clicquot faced long odds-indeed, she was a true gambler-because travel was hazardous and much of the export market was closed. Still, she clung to her vision with a remarkable tenacity and was ultimately successful-Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin is still one of the best known champagne houses in the world.
The book has a great deal of interesting information on the history and production of champagne-this gives the Widow's life some context. Mazzeo's finest moment is her taut telling of the delivery of the 1811 vintage under the specter of war in 1813. Mazzeo clearly sets the scene and lets the reader know just how high the stakes are. We really get a sense of the menace-and triumph-of the Widow's life.
Much of what happens after that drama, which falls about in the middle of the book, is unfortunately anti-climax. Mazzeo's problem is that there simply aren't any sources to guide her: since the Widow left scanty records of her personal life, we just don't know what was going on there. It's no coincidence that a well-documented episode from the Widow's business career is the best part of the book: clearly, there were solid sources to ground the story here.
There also seems to be a great deal of telling, rather than showing in the narrative.Read more ›
Coming from a genteel class, it was unusual in that day to run a business, these women instead, were expected to sit leisurely around drawing rooms in idle chatter but when only twenty-seven years old, Barbe-Nicole Clicquot became a widow. The hurdles of making wine and champagne: unreliable bottle quality, turmoil of war preventing export, unusually wet or hot weather, all became Widow Clicquot's worry.
Wines that sparkled were wines that had gone bad. And beginning in the Middle Ages in the Champagne region of France, it was happening more and more. To turn this seeming catastrophe into a success put Champagne on the map. Second fermentation, a disaster for wine, was coaxed into happening in a bottle of champagne.
The Widow Clicquot became, in the nineteenth century, a premier name in Champagne. This book puts a face on that label.
This book is not only the very interesting story of Barbe-Nicole Clicquot but it is also full of very fascinating details about making wine, making champagne, labeling varietals, labeling quality. Second fermentation, the use of sulfur and wine remaining on the lees all makes sense to me now. If you love wine you will really enjoy the history of this fascinating woman and the process of making wine.
The one detriment to this book is Tilar Mazzeo's overuse of the word "perhaps." It leaves the reader wondering just how much of the biographical information is accurate.
I feel as if I read a "docudrama" or some similar fictional account based loosely upon a few historical facts. The Widow Clicquot should have been a 50 page thesis for a history grad student (assuming the author was first able to unearth sufficient historical facts). Instead, the author stretched this book to 194 pages in the advance review copy - at least 100 pages past the book's historical-accuracy-breaking-point. The author did her readers a great disservice by attempting to write a biography about Madame Clicquot when the author herself repeatedly admits in the book that she could find almost no recorded history about the lady. Was this book pursued purely for commercial reasons, without regard to the lack of substantive content? Was the author too wrapped up in her intellectual love affair with the concept of Madame Clicquot to recognize that "The Story of a Champagne Empire and the Woman Who Ruled It" fails to tell us much of anything about how Madame created her Champagne Empire, or how she ruled it?
My greatest complaint is that Ms. Mazzeo trys to create historical fact out of thin air throughout The Widow Clicquot. I could provide innumerable examples of the author leaping to conclusions about what Clicquot felt or saw, what Clicquot did and why she did it - all without any sort of reference material to back up her conclusions. For example, the way Ms.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A woman who knew what she wanted out of life in the 18th Century.... A must read for all womenPublished 1 month ago by CC
The Widow Clicquot as a historical figure is fascinating. The author explains several times that gathering material for this books was difficult, and as a result many of the facts... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Claire Garrett
If you want to understand the history behind champagne, this is a good book to read. Champagne is France's history and heritage. Well written bookPublished 3 months ago by Henk van Dongen
Captivating story of one of the pioneers of the champagne industry - it made me think of Bill Gates, only the Widow Clicquot was a woman and had to deal with several major... Read morePublished 4 months ago by CMPMCA
So glad to discover this great little book!! My favorite champagne - nowI know the rest of the story!!! Read morePublished 5 months ago by Ann R. Crowell
Well researched and documented.
Highly recommend it to anyone interested in the history of champagne.
Full of poorly researched theories and rampant speculation. Read only if you are looking for something mindless - don't read if your goal is to learn anything.Published 5 months ago by Bob from Michigan