I’m not much of a wine drinker — a lot of it gives me headaches — but after reading Tilar J. Mazzeo’s book about Barbe-Nicole Clicquot Ponsardin (aka The Widow Clicquot) I have a desire to splurge and sip from a glass of Veuve Clicquot Champagne
The Widow Clicquot: The Story of a Champagne Empire and the Woman who Ruled It is not a biography of Madame Clicquot, but rather of the company that even today still bears her name.
Born and married into a prominent family of textile manufacturers (her father was the mayor of Reims), Barbe-Nicole was a woman of some means in the Champagne region of France. When her husband, Francois, expressed interest in going into the wine business, she joined him in the venture; and upon his untimely death she broke with convention and continued to run the company, building it into one of the great wine houses of France.
That Madame Clicquot was able to achieve such success as a woman in that era is remarkable enough, but to have done it in such a period of conflict across Europe is even more remarkable. Blockades resulting from the numerous wars being fought hampered the export of Veuve Clicquot’s Champagne, and the key to the ultimate success of her enterprise was her decision to run the blockades and send a shipment of champagne to Russia (whose citizens tended to prefer her champagne to those of her rivals). This huge risk, known to her and only a few trusted members of her staff, paid off, and cemented “The Widow’s” champagne as one of the best.
Unfortunately not much of Madame Clicquot’s personal papers remain to be able to gain a true glimpse into her family life. A review on Better World Books’ blog suggested that Madame Clicquot’s life would make the basis of an interesting nove, and I agree.