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Here's to France's Women in Wine and to Rebecca Rosenberg's Book Champagne Widows #winophiles

This month the #Winophiles are exploring France's Women in Wine.  Along with that, I will be sharing a book review of Champagne Widows by Rebecca Rosenberg.  I am excited to share what I have learned with you this month.

I decided to share with you some of the women I discovered when I participated in the French Alsace Digitasting in 2021.  I signed up even though I know NO FRENCH at all.  Tiny bottles of the wines were sent to me prior to the tasting.  Then you met with the winemakers and tried the wines virtually.  It was a great event that is happening again this year! The wine-makers were so accomodating to me and helped me understand their wines even though I didn't speak the language.

Sipp Mack Estates Wine

The Sipp Mack estate is nestled at the top of the picturesque wine-growing village of Hunawihr. Jacques and Laura Sipp, supported by their daughter Carolyn, have continued a centuries-old family history of artisan-winegrowers for 10 generations. Today, the family cultivates and vinifies all of its 25Ha of vines in organic farming. The soils, mainly clay-limestone, are located in the municipalities of Hunawihr, Ribeauvillé, and Bergheim. The jewels of the house are found on the Grands Crus Rosacker and Osterberg.

We tried:

86 A - AOC Alsace Grand Cru Rosacker, Vintage 2016

86 B - AOC Alsace, Vintage 2018

86 C - AOC Alsace, Vintage 2019

86 D - AOC Alsace, Vintage 2018

We loved:

The AOC Alsace Vintage 2018.  Dry wine with notes of apricot and citrus. Long finish with good acidity.

Fernand Engel Wines

This vineyard has been run according to the organic farming method since 2001. It now covers 64 ha. The specific management of the vine is based on tillage, biodynamics, the search for deep rooting, and the sowing of soil-improving plants. These techniques transcend the intrinsic qualities of each terroir. The wine-growing area made up of more than 180 plots extends over 9 villages on an enchanting wine-growing route 40 km long. This mosaic of terroirs is a real asset, it allows us to obtain very varied wines. The imprint of each soil gives the wines a unique and complex touch. Four Grand Crus crown our range: Altenberg de Bergheim, Mandelberg, Gloeckelberg and Praelatenberg. The estate is renowned for its sweet wines and its Crémants.  Great Granddaughter Amelie joined the business in 2015.

We tried:

33 A - AOC Alsace, Vintage 2017

33 B - AOC Alsace Grand Cru Praelatenberg, Vintage 2018

33 C - AOC Alsace, Vintage 2019

33 D - AOC Alsace, Vintage 2018

We loved:

This Pinot Noir has a nice silky attack, a rich and heady substance. The tannins are still young but very interesting, and velvety. The bouquet is impressive with notes of morello cherries and stewed red fruits.

Domaine Barmes-Buecher Wines

Domaine Barmès-Buecher was created in 1985 by Geneviève Barmès (née Buecher) and François Barmès her husband. They unite the lands of their respective families, owners of vines since the 17th century, in Wettolsheim, one of the largest wine-growing towns in the region. Geneviève and François opt for a biodynamic culture of the vine advocating agriculture in harmony with nature, living things, and natural cycles. In 2011, the accidental disappearance of François accelerated the involvement of his daughter Sophie and his son Maxime. The latter, in charge of production and winemaking, accompanied by his mother and sister, continues the meticulous work undertaken in the vineyards and in the cellar, driven by the desire to produce wines with a great personality. The recognition of the French and international press as well as the loyalty of the customers testify to great know-how and a great mastery of the Barmès-Buecher family and its wines. All the tasks in the vineyard are carried out by experienced permanent employees, in close collaboration with the winemaker and the family.

We tried:

7 A - AOC Alsace, Vintage 2018

7 B - AOC Alsace Grand Cru Hengst, Vintage 2018

7 C - AOC Alsace, Vintage 2018

7 D - AOC Alsace, Vintage 2018

We loved:

Our old Pinot Noir vines of about sixty years are planted on our Grand Cru Hengst, marl-limestone soil, facing south. A great terroir with an assertive character, it holds all the potential to give our old vines exceptional charisma. This Pinot Noir of great structure is a wine for laying down par excellence. Its mouth is balanced, concentrated, with woody and fruity notes, evoking red berries and undergrowth. Its tannic finish is clean and long.

This leads me to the book, Champagne Widows by Rebecca Rosenberg.   A woman who defied the odds of land ownership in the 1800s and then went on to build a champagne empire. 

From the publisher:  

Champagne, France, 1800. Twenty-year-old Barbe-Nicole inherited Le Nez (an uncanny sense of smell that makes her picky, persnickety, and particularly perceptive) from her great-grandfather, a renowned champagne maker. Her parents see Le Nez as a curse that must be hidden and try to marry her off to an unsuspecting suitor. But Barbe-Nicole is haunted by her Grand-mere’s dying wish for her to use Le Nez to make great champagne. When she learns her childhood sweetheart, Francois Clicquot, wants to start a winery, she rejects her parents’ suitors and marries Francois despite his mental illness.

Barbe-Nicole Clicquot must now cope with Francois’ suicide, the difficulties of starting a winery, and the Napoleon Codes preventing women from owning a business. All this while Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, wages six wars against the European monarchs, crippling her ability to sell her champagne. Using Le Nez, she beats the impossible hardships of Napoleon’s wars, often challenging Napoleon himself. When Veuve Clicquot falls in love with her sales manager, Louis Bohne, who asks her to marry, she must choose between losing her winery to her husband, as dictated by Napoleon Code or losing Louis.

In the ultimate showdown, Veuve Clicquot defies Napoleon, risking imprisonment and even death.

My Take:

Champagne Widows is a wonderful story about a strong woman during one of the most turbulent times in France's history.  As a good historical fiction person does, Rebecca Rosenberg blends facts and fiction to create a story that will keep you engrossed to the end.  The author does not shy away from the truths surrounding Napoleon's reign.  Another trait of good historical fiction is that one stays up far too late Googling the real story.  I went down many rabbit holes and when I came up for air, I grinned and went down another one.

As I love to do, I will speak to the author's craft.  She keeps the book moving, uses carefully coined phrases and descriptions that are delightful, and actually had my curling my nose during specifically worded descriptions of smells that the main character experiences.  I highly recommend this book to all who love historical fiction, Napoleon, champagne, women's stories, and women who beat the odds.

I was given an Advanced Review Copy from the author but a positive review was not required, and all opinions given are my very own.

About the Author:

Rebecca Rosenberg is an award-winning novelist, champagne geek, and lavender farmer. Rebecca first fell in love with methode champenoise in Sonoma Valley, California. Over decades of delicious research, she has explored the wine cellars of France, Spain, Italy, and California in search of fine champagne. When Rebecca discovered the real-life stories of the Champagne Widows of France, she knew she’d dedicate years to telling the stories of these remarkable women who made champagne the worldwide phenomenon it is today. Rebecca is a champagne historian, tour guide, and champagne cocktail expert for Breathless Wines. Other award-winning novels include The Secret Life of Mrs. London and Gold Digger, the Remarkable Baby Doe Tabor.

Check out these other French Women in Wine posts by the #Winophile bloggers below!

Would you like to comment?

  1. I missed that wine tasting session sadly, but I am reading the novel right now and enjoying it very much.

  2. I will have to try some of these wines! I didn't realize there were so many women in this profession.

  3. Now I feel like I must have a bottle of champaign. This sounds like a good book to read.

  4. The books sounds like a very good one. I will have to find a copy soon. It has been a while since I sat down and enjoyed a good book.

  5. Th virtual wine tasting must have been fun. I hear they are getting more and more popular.

  6. These are fun pairings and I enjoyed your description of the wines. Sounds like some nice wines to try.

  7. Pinot Noir is hubby's most favorite wine. And that book sounds like a good read. -LYNNDEE

  8. Anonymous11:36 AM

    I don't have such wine tasting experience, but thanks for sharing info about them :) I'd love to try the listed wines that you loved!

    Everything Enchanting ❤️

  9. Here's a toast to Rabbit Holes! Cheers! (I was and am, doing the same as I read this book and I'm loving it!)

    I also love hearing about these women in Alsace. I had a lovely conversation with Jacques and Carolyn at Sipp Mack, who are so lovely. I was anxious to read about the other Alsace wineries you tasted with! It's wonderful to see so much biodynamic farming in the region!

  10. Very interesting! Love French wine and loved hearing all about the history on women and wine!

  11. Richelle Milar2:59 PM

    Wow! These are all really great and amazingly looking wines! I would really love to try some of these!

  12. I have attended a wine tasting event before and have tried some pretty good wines there but I can't remember if I've tried any from this post.

  13. It was so much fun opening those little bottles of Alsatian wine in 2021. I made a point of tasting wines from women winemakers. As for the book, I'm about a third of the way through it and agree with your assessment. Fun read!

  14. I'm familiar with the Veuve Clicquot story, but it sounds like the author drilled down into the details, which is fantastic. I wished I'd gotten a copy of the books now! Cheers Terri!


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