The Widow Clicquot
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The Widow Clicquot

3.33 of 5 stars 3.33  ·  rating details  ·  1,365 ratings  ·  302 reviews
Veuve Clicquot champagne epitomizes glamour, style, and luxury. In The Widow Clicquot, Tilar J. Mazzeo brings to life—for the first time—the fascinating woman behind the iconic yellow label: Barbe-Nicole Clicquot Ponsardin, who, after her husband's death, defied convention by assuming the reins of the fledgling wine business they had nurtured together. Steering the company...more
ebook, 304 pages
Published October 6th 2009 by HarperCollins e-books (first published 2008)
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Thin. Based largely on speculation, this book would have made a much better historical novel than biography. Little actual information is known about Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin, so Mazzeo filled in based upon the known history of France (and the rest of Europe) in the 1800s. The details about the history of the wine industry made up most of the solid information and were interesting, but the book was supposed to be about more than that--Ponsardin and the rise of Veuve Clicquot. Additionally, for com...more
At the face of it, this seems like a good long biography. Until you realize that you've never seen more 'perhaps'es, 'likely's, 'surely's, 'must have's, and on and on, in one place in your life. More that 90% of this book is the author imagining the widow Clicquot's life from little tiny details she gleaned from here and there. 3+ "perhaps" per page is a conservative estimate, not including all the other fluffy imagination words. And yet Mazzeo still tries to present this as nonfictional biograp...more
Carolyn Kellogg
Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin was born in Reims, France, in 1777. She was plain, yet her merchant father married her to the wealthy young Francois Clicquot, a man of her class. With ample support, Francois and his wife took over his family's languishing wine business. They hired a brilliant salesman, Louis Bohne, who persuaded Russians that they should buy Clicquot. Still the couple struggled, set back by wars (which got in the way of commerce) and weather (which was alternately too hot for stored wine...more
I love historical novels and this one was good for me because we were in Champagne last summer. I wish I had read this before we went because I would have tried to find the places written about here. It is the story of a very industrious, bright and determined woman to continue and prosper in the wine making business her husband left her with. Needless to say, this was not a time of women owned businesses! She was very young when she was widowed. In the process of making a go of the business, sh...more
The subject (the life of the widow Clicquot, famous Champagne entepreuneur) is interesting and the english quite easy to understand even for a non native speaker. In particular, the part regarding the hard times widow Clicquot faces during the Napoleonic Empire catches the reader attention and makes him genuinely wonder how she is going to resolve the situation.
Unkuckily there is one fatal flaw in this book: it is a matter of fact that not much has remained to the present to understand the priv...more
After Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin and François Clicquot are married, they begin trying to enlarge and enhance the Clicquot family's sparkling wine business, until then a small sideline income for the family. Francois is determined to open up exports to Russia and beyond, and after his untimely death Barbe-Nicole carries on his work. Over a period of years and despite many setbacks, she succeeds in creating the Champagne empire we know today as Veuve Clicquot.

While this is a fascinating book in theory...more
Unfortunately, I have to report that I merely "read" this book, because I gave up halfway through.

I think I would have been more engaged in the story of the Widow Clicquot if the book had been written as historical fiction. Instead, it's written as a biography. Unfortunately, there aren't a lot of facts known about Mrs. Clicquot--barely any of her correspondence was kept, for example--so the author resorts to phrases like "she may have. . ." or comparing her life to what other women in time peri...more
Margaret Sankey
If you've ever looked at the bright yellow label and wondered if there really was a Veuve Clicquot rather than a marketing creation, the answer is oui--Barb-Nicole, bourgeois survivor of the French Revolution, bankrupt widow and winemaking genius was not just a real person, but a revolutionizer of 19th century industry. While managing vineyards and negotiating the every changing political allegiances of France, she also invented labels and international name recognition, a secret method for stor...more
Zabetta Camilleri
I think the best way to describe what this book is about is to use a quote from a letter Madame Clicquot wrote to her great grand daughter

"I am going to tell you a secret... you more than anyone resemble me. you who have such audacity. It is a precious quality that has been very useful to me in the course of my long life ... to dare things before others ... I am called today the grand lady Champagne! Look around you, this chateau, these unfaltering hills, I can be bolder than you realise. The w...more
Once we got past the confusion on how to write this book, the history was interesting and it began to flow a bit. Have never seen a writer use the word "perhaps" so much. Really horrible editing!
Wow! What a little-known, hardly realized story of a woman who almost singlehandedly launched an international luxury brand. Unfortunately, since not much is known of the Widow Clicquot's intimate life details, Mazzeo incorporates a lot of speculation making this story at times seem more like a novel. But she grounds any speculation in reality and gives good reasoning for the conclusions she makes. Aside from learning about Barbe-Nicole, this is also a great overall history of champagne. I learn...more
Fascinating biography of the woman behind the iconic yellow-labelled champagne. As much a story of the development of champagne itself and the fledgling industry as it is about the woman herself, it highlights the paucity of documentation of women's lives at that time. At times I felt the narrative suffered from walking a fine line between being an academic work and a more populist read, but overall I was very interested in the book, and learnt so much from it. We conducted our book club discuss...more
Kristi Brown
I actually doublly enjoyed this book because I drank Clicquot along with the book! Learning about the Widow Clicquot and the challenges she and France faces with Napoleon and the ups and downs of the crops was amazing. Barne-Nicole Clicuot is the ultimate model of a successful woman! Clicquot surged the champagne market to depths higher and mightier than you can imagine...from Russia to America she created a luxury product that bubbles today!!!

A must read if in to French history and/or culinary...more
To her last surviving great-grandchild Madame Clicquot writes, "I am going to tell you a secret... You more than anyone resemble me, you who have such audacity. It is a precious quality that has been very useful to me in the course of my long life... to dare things before others... I am called today the Grand Lady of Champagne!"

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 wh...more
Tom Stewart
I'd hoped that this wouldbegoodeffervescent and enlightening fun. And it's ok. I learned quite a lot about the brief period during which champagne became *c*h*a*m*p*a*g*n*e!, a story I hadn't known. But the prose is baggy and flabby--this book fails the minimal test of editing, namely the application Struck & White's Rule 13. And the whole thing tries too hard. And so, while I have said that I finished, I mean that I finished reading the book, but not that i finished the book
I love historical fiction and champagne, so I thought this book would be awesome for me. Not so much. It wasn't all that long, but it still took some work to make it to the end. In the author's defense, there apparently is not much information about her subject, but the way she kept saying "perhaps Barbe-Nicole ..." just drove me nuts. How do other authors in this genre keep from doing that? I'll have to pay more attention in the next one I read.
Eric Cowperthwaite
Fascinating history of Clicquot Ponsardin champagne house and the Veuve (Widow) Clicquot. Unfortunately, very little of the Widow's letters, diary, etc. survived and so the author had to use a tremendous amount of indirect information to construct the personal history of Barbe Nicole Ponsardin Clicquot. She did a great job with the limited resources available. And the history of the rise of Champagne is fascinating.
Candice Urmston
Interesting premise but the author's writing style was distracting, writing in the first person in odd places. It reminded me of episodes of Saved by the Bell in which Zach would turn to the camera as though no one else was there. The story could have been told better in the hands of another.
Jock Mcclees
After reading other reviews I would be curious to go back and reread parts of the book. There were complaints about the amount the author used Perhaps and speculated about what Veuve Clicquot might have thought. Since it was explained at the outset that no diaries and little other source material exists to understand what Veuve Clicquot was thinking, it didn't bother me at the time.

I was fascinated by what a brilliant businesswoman she was and how many things she invented/created, from improved...more
women empowerment and champagne knowledge! what more could a girl ask for?
Julie H.
I'd really like to be able to award three and a half stars here. The Widow Clicquot: The Story of a Champagne Empire and the Woman Who Ruled It contained some wonderful social history and fun champagne-related factoids. The Veuve Clicquot, as the woman and brand she created are known, is credited with three major innovations: (1) internationalizing the champagne market, (2) establishinging brand identification, and (3) developing the process known as remuage sur pupitre--the last item a means of...more
Barbe-Nicole Clicquot Ponsardin, a.k.a. La Veuve Clicquot, was an extraordinary person. She not only took over the fledgling business that her late husband had started in a time when women were rarely know for their business acumen, she made it thrive despite revolutions, wars, blockades, economic crises, bad harvests, manufacturing difficulties, and the occasional really lousy business decision. She made her champagne house, The Widow Clicquot, so famous that even today the The Oxford English D...more
A strong female character, a look at the consequences of the French Revolution outside the walls of Paris and a history of the ubiquitous celebratory bubbly – this great historical look at the Barbe-Nicole Clicquot was as informative as it was enjoyable.

Yes, I was a little late to the game of Tilar Mazzeo’s The Widow Clicquot: The Story of a Champagne Empire and the Woman Who Ruled It (the paperback came out in 2009), I had heard about it, and even had a borrowed version sitting on my shelf for...more
Farah Ng
Review from Broken Penguins blog:

Have you ever looked in the Champagne section at the liqueur store (affectionately known as the LCBO in Ontario, colloquially pronounced lick-boe) and wondered why they cost so much more than sparkling wine?

And for those of us who have Champagne taste and sparkling wine budget, we know it’s basically the same thing but with one discerning difference. Champagne hails from the town of Champagne, France while sparkling wine c...more
A fascinating, engrossing read about the woman who ruled a champagne empire. You won't put this down. Her story is told against the backdrop of the Champagne in 19th Century France. When I'm done with the book, I plan to buy a bottle of Veueve Clicquot to celebrate. Care to join me?

7/13/09: A breathtaking memoir I have just finished.

This is a book for every woman, entrepreneurial or not. Those who are can charge on and those who aren't will be inspired to dream.

One of Barbe-Nicole[the Widow Cliq...more
A non-fiction novel about Barbe-Nicole Clicquot Ponsardin and her role in the creation, reputation, and success of the champagne Veuve Clicquot. Given to me by my Auntie Gail. Although I do believe that the story was a good one, I did not like the book. It was repetitive, both in information and in phrases, and the author idolizes Barbe-Nicole and creates a lot of hype over her. The end of the novel read like a high school student trying to write enough to fill a page requirement, with no fluidi...more
I've had one glass of Veuve Clicquot in my life. By moving to Brooklyn, my friends and I have sacrificed being able to afford $50 bottles for the sake of paying rent on time, so we usually end up with sparkling wine instead. That's fine, I like the bubbles. That didn't stop me from recognizing the familiar yellow label on the cover of Tilar Mazzeo's The Widow Clicquot and deciding that I just had to find out the history of the woman who started the company. So I did.

Mazzeo explains at the outset...more
MsSmartiePants the candy...
Ever read a book and think "I don't want this to end!". The Widow Clicquot is just such a book.

A wonderful, informative biography about the 27-year old widow who transformed and built the Champagne industry! Full of wonderful descriptions (and I don't really like many Champagnes!), and lots of general wine knowledge about production techniques, as well as historical facts about life in France just prior to the Revolution through to current times. What a whirlwind! Through it all, this woman came...more
This book was fairly well written and flowed nicely for most of the book. There were a few strange parts where it seemed as if the author or the editor lost her train of thought and let the narrative get away.

I thought the story was a very interesting juxtaposition of the history of France, the history of Champagne, and the history of Barbe-Nicole Clicquot. The three pieces were woven together nicely and the context and interplay of time period really drove the story.

The trickiest part of the bo...more
Apr 12, 2010 Carrie rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Frncophiles, Foodies & Women business owners
Recommended to Carrie by: Tracy Kitchens
During July 2008, two of our friends from Sonoma came to visit Jay and I while we were living in Brussels. Greg is a winemaker, so we took him and his wife, Tracy, to Reims. We stopped by a french farmers market, purchased aged cheese and bread so fresh it was warm... and headed to grab some bubbly.

At GH Mumm a tall, thin, immaculately put together (isn't every French woman) guide, Madeline, told us about the history of sparking wine. I learned that King Louis XIV & XV and Napoleon were love...more
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woman that achieve in life 1 15 Nov 11, 2008 09:51PM  
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Tilar J. Mazzeo is a cultural historian, biographer, and passionate student of wine and food culture. She divides her time among the California wine country, New York City, and Maine, where she is a professor of English at Colby College.

(from the author's website)
More about Tilar J. Mazzeo...
The Hotel on Place Vendome: Life, Death, and Betrayal at the Hotel Ritz in Paris The Secret of Chanel No. 5: The Intimate History of the World's Most Famous Perfume Writing Creative Nonfiction Back Lane Wineries of Sonoma Back Lane Wineries of Napa

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