Wednesday, August 3, 2011
The Widow Clicquot - Tilar Mazzeo
My favorite cocktail is a kir royale. I can't say I'm sophisticated enough to have a preference in the champagne or sparkling wine that is used to make it - but I know that there is something special about that bottle in the simple orange box. I also don't much care for stories about how any type of alcohol is made. It's kind of why I'm not hugely impressed by tours of wineries (unless the buildings are architecturally interesting or the vineyards are particularly beautiful). My enjoyment comes from the drinking of the drink itself, not really knowing where it's from. But, for some reason, I thought a book about the widow who cultivated the Veuve Clicquot empire might be interesting. It wasn't really, except for the general story about a woman growing up in the shadow of the French Revolution becoming a rich and powerful businesswoman. An accomplishment almost unheard of today (well obviously the French Revolution part), but even more rare centuries ago. The book is a good balance between the life of the widow, Barbe-Nicole, and the making of the champagne that made her famous. It's clear the book was meticulously research, but as might be expected, this can make for dry reading. The author attempts to add suspense to the story by ending each chapter with a foreshadowing cliffhanger - along the lines of "but that wouldn't be the last time Barbe-Nicole found herself on the bring of financial failure." I kept hearing an overly dramatic voice-over in my head and the whole thing came across a little cheesy. But, clearly, she was an amazing woman, and even though a bottle of her bubbly will run me quite a bit more than Prosecco, knowing her background and being the feminist that I am, I think this probably will encourage me to continue to support the on-going success of her empire.