Title: The Widow Clicquot: The Story of a Champagne Empi’>The Widow Clicquot
Author: Tilar J. Mazzeo
Release Date: October 6, 2009
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Genre: Non-Fiction, History
Rating: 4 out of 5
Tilar J. Mazzeo tackles the history of champagne in The Widow Clicquot: The Story of a Champagne Empire and the Woman Who Ruled It, and specifically of Veuve Clicquot champagne. This book is the extraordinary story of Barbe-Nicole, a widow who went from knowing nothing about champagne to establishing one of the most successful champagne brands in history.
The Widow Clicquot is a fascinating book, even if you aren’t a huge fan of champagne. It goes into the history of champagne – how it’s made and the difference between sparkling wine and champagne. Additionally, Mazzeo goes into such historical issues as glass bottling, labeling, and aging champagne – it’s incredibly interesting and very well-researched.
Barbe-Nicole was a fascinating person that completely deserved her own book. In a time where women were expected to be meek and subservient, Barbe-Nicole stood on her own two feet and pioneered her own company. She had both horrible and extraordinary luck, depending on what period of her life you look at. However, it was really her pluck and her shrewdness that led her to extraordinary success.
This book also juxtaposes Barbe-Nicole’s story against the broader political happenings in Europe at that time, including the French Revolution of 1789 and the Franco-Prussian war. Her story is so intertwined with what was going on, so it’s easy to understand why Mazzeo dedicated so much time to the topic, but it’s still a really nice addition. Too often in history books, the author doesn’t really give the reader full historical context because they are such niche books. Therefore, it’s great that Mazzeo chose to give the reader a comprehensive overview of what was going on in Europe at the time that Barbe-Nicole was building the Veuve Clicquot brand.
The Widow Clicquot is a fascinating look at an extraordinary woman who was ahead of her time. Though the reader is left to wonder how much of this book is speculation because of Mazzeo’s constant use of the word “perhaps,” it’s still a well-researched and well-written book that anyone interested in the history of champagne will thoroughly enjoy.