November 2008 Indie Next List
“The story of how -- in 1800s France -- this brave and cunning woman emerged from small-time broker to dominate the international luxury market is intoxicating. Mazzeo's prose is appropriately effervescent as she explores the secrets and science of wine making and the numerous factors that contributed to champagne becoming the world's most powerful symbol of celebration and the good life. A toast to Mazzeo for capturing the essence of a radical life -- cheers!”
— Melba Major, Square Books, Oxford, MS
The story of the visionary young widow who built a champagne empire, showed the world how to live with style, and emerged a legend
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.
About the Author
Tilar J. Mazzeo, an assistant professor of English at Colby College, is a cultural historian, biographer, and passionate student of wine and food culture.
“Joan of Arc and Madame Clicquot were the two women heroes I knew when growing up in France. What a gift to have this new, well-researched biography of one of the world’s first ‘legitimate’ businesswoman, our contemporary as a global business leader.”
-Mireille Guiliano, author of the New York Times #1 bestseller, French Women Don't Get Fat
“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.”
“If you like champagne, “The Widow Clicquot” by Tilar J. Mazzeo is definitely worth a drink.”
“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.”
“This book is full of fascinating morsels of information.”
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.
“Mazzeo’s tale moves swiftly through Barbe-Nicole’s many accomplishments, including her method for storing bottles nose-down—an innovation that allowed the second fermentation detritus to be cleared efficiently, setting her far ahead of her competitors.”
-Los Angeles Times