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The Widow Clicquot

The Story of a Champagne Empire and the Woman Who Ruled It
Narrated by: Susan Ericksen
Length: 9 hrs and 26 mins
4 out of 5 stars (196 ratings)

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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)

What members say

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  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Anne
  • Lawrence, KS, USA
  • 04-29-09

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!

9 of 11 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 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.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

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 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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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.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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A Beautiful History

Excellent composition, excellent subject matter, excellent performance. A rare, exciting masterpiece that highlights a true woman of character.

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

And then it ended

The story just kind of came to an end without the drive excitement or interest that the rest of the book was able to captivate me with.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Pleasant biography of one of the few women who built an enduring empire

Enjoyed the story and history of the widow Clicquot and the Champagne house that endures today. It is one of the two Champagne brands I love and it was why I purchased this book, a pleasant narration and a good view of the history of the era, history of Champagne industry, and a woman who was able to endure and thrive in that time.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

a bit impersonal

While the author is passionate about the subject, it doesn't come through strongly until the final third of the book. Admittedly, I am not a fan of nonfiction but this is very dry the first half. I liked the reader's tone and voice. Her French pronunciation was a bonus.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Very informative and engaging story

I love Champagne and all things fabulous so this was a no brainer for me! The tragically beautiful story of Barbe-Nicole Clicquot Ponsardin was definitely one of the best things I've ever encountered! The history behind her company and of the era she lived in was amazing!

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

cheers to this book

so much to learn about the widow cliquot and the emergence of champaign. well done.