The Widow Clicquot: The Story of a Champagne Empire and the Woman Who Ruled It

The Widow Clicquot: The Story of a Champagne Empire and the Woman Who Ruled It

Tilar J. Mazzeo

Language: English

Pages: 0

ISBN: 1400141702

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


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.

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fully intended to do. As a widow, Barbe-Nicole was entitled to manage her own affairs. It was a unique situation in French culture at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Widows had all the social freedoms of married women— and most of the financial freedoms of a man. Under the laws of the Napoleonic Code, a married businesswoman had a shadowy legal existence. According to statute, a woman entrepreneur could not defend even a simple contract without her husband’s permission. But as a widow—and

since spring that, soon, expensive licenses would be required for all shipments abroad. Besides, Alexandre’s son Jérôme had now completed his commercial education, and Alexandre was understandably eager to set up his son in the trade. There was no reason to commit Jérôme to a long-term partnership in a failing family business with a young widow several years his senior—especially one who clearly wanted to run the family business herself. Barbe-Nicole, it seems, had no intention of marrying again,

recognition in the island nation, was having even greater success. But the seasonal British market could not keep all the champagne makers in the region afloat. The next year they learned that one of their competitors, the firm of TronssonJacquesson, was bankrupt. By the summer of 1811, Barbe-Nicole could be forgiven for feeling a bit panicked. Despite the slow collapse that year of the French economic blockades, the allied counterblockades had lost none of their sting. That spring, she had orders

business. When we look at the names of the famous champagnes on our grocery store shelves, the so-called grandes marques, it should come as no surprise that these are the names of Barbe-Nicole’s nineteenthcentury competitors. Jean-Rémy Moët and his son-in-law Pierre-Gabriel Chandon. Jules Mumm. Louis Roederer. Charles Heidsieck. Her grandmother’s family, the pioneering Ruinarts. A small group of entrepreneurs modernized the champagne industry and made vast fortunes in the process. The Widow

assassins,” the champagne made in 1811, during the year of the comet. Since those long-ago days of her marriage to François, Barbe-Nicole had found pleasure in watching the work of the harvest and looking out over the rolling fields of low vines, rising as a verdant haze in the early morning hours. From Boursault she could watch the harvest from her upstairs windows. There were the sounds of low voices in the distance and the creaking wheels of donkey carts, as small baskets of sugary grapes were

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