Veuve Clicquot champagne is a recognizable symbol of status and luxury with its unmistakable bright yellow label, but the widow (the word veuve is French for widow) for whom it is named has become a shadowy figure in history about whom very little is known.
Barbe-Nicole Clicquot Ponsardin was widowed at 27 years old in the early 1800s in the Champagne region in France. After her husband’s death Barbe-Nicole took what was a small family wine business and turned it into one of the world’s most well known and successful champagne houses.
If the art of wine making or the intricacies of business or even French history are among your interests, this story of one of the earliest successful businesswomen is not to be missed. In THE WIDOW CLICQUOT, Tilar J. Mazzeo thoroughly examines the period, the business and the wine making and certainly as much of Barbe-Nicole’s personal life as she was able to recover.
For me, however, the book falls a little short of its stated goal. At the outset Mazzeo says she is out to uncover the personal story of this great woman, but at the end of the day too much of her story was lost and we are only able to get a glimpse of who she was. Though informative and inspiring, I was constantly hoping to get more into Barbe-Nicole’s heart and head. After all this is a woman who entertained Napoleon and Josephine, snuck wine into Russia during wartime and had people calling for a bottle of “the widow” in life and in literature.
Alas – perhaps someday a great fiction writer will be inspired by Tilar Mazzeo’s THE WIDOW CLICQUOT and will write a novel based on the life of Barbe-Nicole. Maybe then some of her lost history can be filled in with a great story that at least could have been true.
— Dana Barrett, Editor