In this episode of the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast, we’re chatting with Tilar Mazzeo, author and proprietor and winemaker at Parsell Vineyard. Her book The Widow Clicquot, a biography of Barbe-Nicole Clicquot Ponsardin, the founder of the champagne house Veuve Clicquot became a bestseller on the New York Times, and a film adaptation of the book is in the works. Tilar gives us the story behind the Champagne and the woman who built not only this prestigious luxury brand but was instrumental in the development of the industry as we know it. She also shares her inspiration and insights from developing the Back-Lane Wineries series. Enjoy!
- Why did Tilar decide to write “The Widow Clicquot”?
- How did the Widow Clicquot get started in the wine business?
- Why did Veuve Clicquot become such a sought after brand?
- What were some of the Widow Clicquot’s most remarkable innovations?
- How was the Widow Clicquot involved with the wine tourism industry?
- Where did the Widow Clicquot and Louise Pommery’s paths cross each other?
- What site should you make sure to see when visiting Veuve Pommery?
- Did the Widow Clicquot ever remarry?
- What is the connecting thread through many of Tilar’s writings?
- How can studying perfume teach you about wine?
- Does Parsell Vineyard bottle its own wine?
- How is Parsell’s Marechal Foch produced?
- Why did Tilar decide to use growler bottles for her wines?
- What is raw wine?
- Where can you find Parsell Vineyard?
- What is Tilar’s role at the winery?
- What is Tilar’s favourite wine gadget?
- Who is Tilar’s favourite winemaker?
- What is the weirdest wine pairing Tilar has ever had?
- What’s the best piece of wine advice Tilar has received?
About Tilar Mazzeo
Tilar J. Mazzeo is the Clara C. Piper Associate Professor of English at Colby College, in Waterville, Maine. She is the author of numerous works of narrative nonfiction, and several of her books, including the “oenobiography” The Widow Clicquot, have been New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, and Los Angeles Times bestsellers. She was a nationally prominent wine writer in the United States before emigrating to Canada, and her writing on wine has appeared in venues such as Food & Wine magazine and in her guide book series The Back-Lane Wineries of Sonoma, The Back-Lane Wineries of Napa, and The Back-Lane Wineries of New York. She holds a certificate from the winemaking program at the University of California at Davis and is currently the proprietor and winemaker at her family’s estate project, Parsell Vineyard in Saanichton, British Columbia.
- Connect with Tilar
- Tilar Mazzeo’s Books:
- Champagne Bottle Opener Wrench
- Madame Lalou Bize-Leroy, owner of Domaine Leroy and Domaine d’Auvenay
- My online wine and food pairing class
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Transcript & Takeaways
Welcome to episode 37!
In today’s episode, we’re chatting with Tilar Mazzeo, who has held various professorial and teaching positions at several American universities, as well as being the Washington Scholar at Pembroke College, in Cambridge, UK. She’s currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Literature and Languages of the World at the Université de Montréal in Canada.
Her book The Widow Clicquot, a biography of Barbe-Nicole Clicquot Ponsardin, the founder of the champagne house Veuve Clicquot became a bestseller on the New York Times, and a film adaptation of the book is in the works.
Tilar also wrote The Secret of Chanel No. 5: The Biography of a Scent, another bestselling biography of a famous woman, Coco Chanel, as well as The Hotel on Place Vendôme, which chronicles the Ritz Hotel in Paris during Nazi occupation.
She was a nationally prominent wine writer in the United States before emigrating to Canada, and her writing on wine has appeared in venues such as Food & Wine magazine and in her guide book series The Back-Lane Wineries of Sonoma, The Back-Lane Wineries of Napa, and The Back-Lane Wineries of New York. She holds a certificate from the winemaking program at the University of California at Davis and is currently the proprietor and winemaker at her family’s estate project, Parsell Vineyard in Saanichton, British Columbia, along with her husband Dr. Robert Miles, a Canadian professor of English, who manages the vineyards.
Quick note. Tilar shares with us her favourite wine gadget near the end of the episode. I’ll put a link to that in the show notes at nataliemaclean.com/37 so you know where you can buy it on Amazon or elsewhere, as well as to the video version of this conversation so you can watch her demonstrate how to use it.
I’d love your help in spreading the word about this podcast. Please post a review on Apple Podcasts, formerly iTunes, or on social media. If you do that, let me know and I’ll give you a shout out on this podcast.
Plus, if you do, I’ll send a free copy of my Ultimate Food & Wine Pairing Guide. It’s a quick template covering the major food matches for red, white, rose and dessert wines. It’s visually very appealing and I know you’ll get tons of use from it. All you have to do is post a review on Apple Podcasts or on social media. Then just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll send it to you.
On with the show. Enjoy!
You can also watch the video interview with Tilar that includes bonus content and behind-the-scenes questions and answers that weren’t included in this podcast.
Well, there you have it! Here are my takeaways from this fascinating discussion with Tilar:
- I love the way Tilar brings to live the backstory of Veuve Clicquot and just how extraordinary she was in her time when women weren’t in business at all, let alone building one of France’s premium luxury brands.
- Her story is so inspiring: she’s only in her mid-20s, her husband dies, she has a young child, and yet she has the guts to step up and take over the family business rather than hand the reins off to a male relative.
- I so admire her technical innovation with the riddling method to speed up production and the fact that her closest rival didn’t learn her secret for years because her employees were so loyal. She must have been an inspiring leader.
- Despite formidable odds, like the blockades of the Napoleonic Wars, she persists and gets her product through to the Russian court, the biggest brand builder of the day who helped make her Champagne famous.
- She’s also a practical woman who admits when she’s wrong and doesn’t allow pride to get in the way of a great business opportunity with the dry version of Champagne that she learns from the Veuve Pommery.
- Tilar is also a grand dame of wine herself, with her dedication to natural and biodynamic winemaking, which isn’t easy in BC’s cool climate. She also has a holistic mindset with not adding sulphites to the wine to preserve the natural microorganisms as well as bottling in growlers as respect to the environment.
You’ll find links to Tilar’s winery website, social media handles, the video version of this interview and the gadget she recommended in the show notes at nataliemaclean.com/37.
Did you know that you can now listen to this podcast on your smart speaker? Just say: “Hey Google” or for Amazon’s Echo, use her name that begins with A … I won’t say it now as it’ll set off your device and mine.
So I’ll say Madame A as in “Madam A — play the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast.” I’d love to chat about wine with you while knitting doilies, watching your children’s soccer game or taking a little midday nap … it’s always wine time.
If you liked this episode, please tell a friend about it, especially one who’s interested in the fascinating story of Veuve Clicquot that Tilar shared. My podcast is easy to find, whether you search Google on its name Unreserved Wine Talk, or on my name.
Finally, if you want to take your ability to pair wine and food to the next level, join me in a free online video class at nataliemaclean.com/class.
I can’t wait to share more wine stories with you.
Thank you for taking the time to listen to this one. I hope something great is in your glass this week, perhaps a glass of Veuve Clicquot Champagne!