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Publisher's Summary

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?

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. A young witness to the dramatic events of 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. Steering the company through dizzying political and financial reversals, she became one of the world's first great businesswomen and one of the richest women of her time.

Although the Widow Clicquot is still a legend in her native France, her story has never been told in all its richness - until now. Painstakingly researched and elegantly written, The Widow Clicquot provides a glimpse into the life of a woman who arranged clandestine and perilous champagne deliveries to Russia one day and entertained Napoleon and Josephine Bonaparte on another. She was 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. Her legacy lives on today, not simply through the famous product that still bears her name, but now through Mazzeo's finely crafted book.

As much a fascinating journey through the process of making this temperamental wine as a biography of a uniquely tempered woman, The Widow Clicquot is utterly intoxicating.

©2009 Tilar J. Mazzeo (P)2009 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"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....an intoxicating business biography." ( The Wall Street Journal)
"If you like champagne, The Widow Clicquot by Tilar J. Mazzeo is definitely worth a drink." (Associated Press)

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What listeners say about The Widow Clicquot

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars

Not at all charming or interesting

This story was meandering and lackluster. The focus of the book was mostly about the Widow's relationships (family, romantic, and business) and how those relationships brushed up against the wine business the Widow headed. The stories were so superficial and many were a sort of fanciful conjecture. Maybe there wasn't a ton of source material to draw from, but it was frustrating. The biggest shame is that this book about such a bold businesswoman was mostly lacking in detail about the topic of the business. It didn't spend much time on how the Widow innovated or branded - arguably the two ways that she was able to distinguish Clicquot as the power-house company it became. It gave most of the credit to male subordinates she hired or partnered with, sad. The story of how she chose a successor was vague at best. It didn't give her much credit for grooming him from a cellar worker to a CEO of a multi-billion dollar (equivalent at the time) company. It didn't give her enough deference for spotting and getting ahead of trends. There were brief mentions of serious product issues, like "toads eyes", but no discussion of how that was solved. Which felt incomplete at best and left me unsatisfied with so many topics in every chapter that were dangled and left out there unaddressed. The book also spent a large amount of time talking about the houses and interior design of the Widow. This part felt so terribly meandering and dull. I thought there was too much detail put into the wrong places and the profile of the Widow offered by the author was incomplete.

4 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars

Makes me want to take a trip!

Tilar Mazzeo does an excellent job of conjuring a character out of a dearth of personal records. Telling this story through the lens of the business that Clicquot left behind and the goings-on of her day was a clever strategy--and a successful one. One forms an image and gets a sense of a great and formidable woman through the juxtaposition of Mme Clicquot's accomplishments and a vivid description of the times in which she lived. Mazzeo tells the story with creativity, affection, admiration, and empathy. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It opened a new world to me--one I want to explore more.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars

A painful listen

I am about to tear out my hair because this audiobook is so poorly written and narrated. The author's method of "imagining" what her characters "must have" seen, thought, and felt is very distracting and certainly undermines her credibility. Similarly, she goes over the same information many times...WHY?? The narrator, Susan Erickson, makes the experience of listening to the book even more painful by coming to a full stop before each French name or word and then s l o w l y pronouncing it phonetically. AWFUL! TERRIBLE!

10 people found this helpful

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Reads like a novel

This read like a novel making it a really interesting and easy read. BONUS: it makes for a great convo topic at dinner parties!

2 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Cheers to Champagne, France, and Strong Women!

I’m a big fan of sparkling wine--I like tasting it, looking at it, learning more about it, and of course, reading about it. So reading The Widow Clicquot: The Story of a Champagne Empire and the Woman Who Ruled It was a must for me.

The book details the life of Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin Clicquot, the “Grande Dame of Champagne,” who revolutionized the champagne industry while being a widowed single mother and one of the first women in the world to run an international business.

Written in a thorough, but accessible way, The Widow Clicquot (in French: “Veuve Clicquot”) details the life of this remarkable woman and her rise to international business leader with interesting information on the development of champagne (spoiler alert: Dom Perignon did not actually invent it), the French Revolution, life in France during the 19th century, and, of course, the personal story of Barbe-Nicole and her family.

The author admits to having difficulty finding information on this fascinating woman, but brings together an interesting portrait of a woman, a time period, and a product that has resounding effects today. (She also includes some information on which places are left from Barbe-Nicole’s time to visit if you find yourself in Reims, too.)

I listened to the audio version (because it’s great listening to this while enjoying a glass) and found the narrator pleasant with excellent French pronunciations.

If you’re a fan of the bubbly, you’ll like this book. If you’re a fan of France, you’ll like this book. If you’re a fan of strong women, you’ll like this book. I’m a fan of all three, so I’m going to celebrate the discovery of this book with a bottle!

2 people found this helpful

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If you enjoy history & champagne...you will LOVE it!

Tilar does an excellent job weaving the history of the era, with verve Cliquot’s story and the evolution of champagne’s tedious creation. Well preformed by Susan who does an amazing job with the French names & language. I would recommend listening to this story...quite interesting & intriguing. Only problem is — you will want to take champagne breaks while listening!!

1 person found this helpful

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Bravo for the Widow

Got this book on recommendation from the View. Probably would not have zeroed in on otherwise. As a lover of nonfiction this was a time in history and subject matter I have very little knowledge and thoroughly enjoyed the content and presentation. What a fascinating woman and learned interesting fun facts about the history and production of champagne.

3 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Ho, hum, this put me to sleep.

As the book begins, there were interesting facts included about the French Revolution and Madam Clicquot's childhood and I enjoyed the story. But as the book unfolded, boredom set in and I was struggling to see my way clear to finish it. After 3 hours I gave up. The many details of making champagne are repeated over and over and the book just doesn't move forward.

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    4 out of 5 stars

Interesting

An interesting book about a not well know entrepreneur. As the author mentions, very few was written about these entrepreneurs previous the twentieth century. The story of Barbie-Nicole, the widow Clicquot, is well explained and draw as a background part of the history of France and, of course, the champagne

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Incredibly dull

As the author explains at the end, she dedicated hours and hours to researching the Widow Clicquot and found almost nothing and she went ahead and wrote the book anyway; so instead of insight into a female business leader, you have a boring French history textbook. The widow is barely even mentioned until Chapter 9. Honestly, one of the worst books I have ever read.