The Widow Clicquot and Her Bubbles

I’ve just finished a wonderful book about the wonderful champagne she created! Truly a delicious book to read! Tiler J. Mazzeo is the author of The Widow Clicquot: The Story of a Champagne Empire and the Woman Who Ruled It. I would describe this book as a business biography of Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin Clicquot, the young widow who took over a young winery when her young husband unexpectedly passed away. This was a most unusual action for a young widow to take, however Madame Clicquot had a wealthy father and father-in-law who believed in her ability and financed her in the early years. This was not an era of business women, but she didn’t let cultural norms slow down her ambition.

Veuve (widow in French) Clicquot was an intelligent and creative woman who had a tremendous drive to make her husband and her winery a success. She was in many ways a silent partner in the winery while Mon. Clicquot was alive. They lived in Reims, the heart of the champagne region, but they made an apparently delicious red wine at the beginning of their business. She moved into the champagne business with her business partner. She wanted more than anything to outsell Jean-Remy Moët. She was extremely competitive and often thought outside the box. She was also gutsy- she had a blockade runner filled with her champagne destined for Imperial Russia at the end of one of the many Napoleonic wars. Her product, Vueve Clicquot succeeded in being the first French champagne abroad following the war. She designed her champagne for Russian taste which was a preference for a very sweet champagne. She changed her recipe for the British market decades later and only after another champagne-making widow entered the British market with a brut champagne.

Mazzeo writes that there is very little personal information on Madame Clicquot- no letters, no diaries, but lots of account books, etc. So it is truly a business biography of a most courageous woman of the 19th century whose champagne is still loved and known world wide by its beautiful “Clicquot yellow” label. If you love the champagne region of France or just love a beautiful champagne, this will make a wonderful read for a summer afternoon- and maybe have a glass of champagne as well!