Interview with Rebecca Rosenberg, Author of “Champagne Widows”

By: Angie Haddock


We reviewed the book “Champagne Widows” earlier this month. You can check out the review here. Now, we bring you some thoughts from the author, Rebecca Rosenberg.

Q: You obviously knew a lot about wine before writing this one, but I’m sure you still had to research the winemaking of the era. Did you find that a lot of it was different, or were you surprised at how much of the process had stayed the same?

A: The process of making champagne has changed tremendously from 1800 to now. Some of the biggest differences are:

From the novel, readers discover that bottles were hand blown and not consistent, so they actually held different amounts and took different sizes of corks! Also, being mouth-blown, they were weak or strong. The fermenting champagne would burst weak bottles.

Veuve Clicquot made major strides in changing murky, yeasty champagne of 1800s to the clear, sparkling champagne we drink today, by figuring out ways to clarify the wine. One method is riddling, which turns the bottle upside down to collect the dead yeast and expels it before bottling.

Veuve Clicquot and others liked their champagne extremely sweet to counter the inconsistency of ripe grapes. They would add lots of sugar to help fermentation. This did not change until 1874 when my next champagne widow, Madame Pommery, perfected Brut (dry) champagne, more like we drink today.

Rebecca Rosenberg

Q: Are there a lot of differences between making still wine and champagne?

A: Champagne takes more than twice as much effort to make as still wine, due to the fact that it has a double fermentation and can take four to even ten years!

Q: Were you already interested in France, or French history before this? Did you travel any for researching the region?

A: I have traveled to the Champagne region of France five times, and discovered the “Champagne Widows” on the first trip, maybe ten years ago. It is so exciting to follow the footsteps of each of the “Champagne Widows” lives and discover who they were and what motivated them. I have visited their wineries and homes and vineyards and hired their winery historians to fill in details I cannot find in research.

Also of note: they were all widows because in the 1800s a woman was not allowed to own property or a business. It was owned by her husband. Only if the husband died, she could own it. If she remarried, the new husband would own it. These shrewd women kept their businesses and romantic relationships separate!

Q: I know this book is planned to be the first in a series – can you tell us what topics we can look forward to in the next installments?

A: “Madame Pommery” will come out next year. Alexandrine Pommery’s story is bone chilling since her house is occupied by the Prussian general of the Franco-Prussian war in 1870-71.

“Lily Bollinger” comes next in the 1940’s during the rise of the Nazis. She will always be known for the most famous champagne quote, which I adore:

“I drink champagne when I’m happy and when I’m sad. Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone. When I have company I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I’m not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise, I never touch it — unless I’m thirsty.”


We’d like to thank Rebecca for answering our questions! If you want to keep up on the upcoming “Champagne Widows” releases, check out her website.


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An Interview with Author Evelyn Kohl LaTorre

By: Angie Haddock


Earlier this week, we reviewed “Love in Any Language,” by Evelyn Kohl LaTorre. I read an advanced copy through the Books Forward program, and the lovely folks at Books Forward also shared the following interview with LaTorre.


Q: You detail it in your first book, “Behind Inca Walls,” but can you give a quick summary of how you and your husband met?

A: My future father-in-law, Adolfo Eguiluz, had requested Peace Corps volunteers to work in Abancay, Peru, for several years. My roommate, Marie, and I went there to work on community development projects. Four months into our stay, we met Eguiluz’s stepson, Antonio, and I felt an immediate attraction. He returned to Abancay often.

Q: What were some unexpected challenges or surprises that you noticed at the beginning of your relationship?

A: One was how deeply Antonio cared about my well-being. As well as how volatile our feelings for one another could be, changing from cool to warm to hot and back to cool again. He also wanted me to pursue graduate studies — though he was dissatisfied with his own course of study.

Q: Did your studies in psychology and multiculturalism help you through some of the learning curves of a relationship with someone of a different nationality and ethnicity?

A: Very much. I learned that personal relationships are more important in life than material possessions and bodily comforts. In college, my favorite classes were psychology, anthropology and sociology — how countries and people are similar and different in their values, food, music, manners and priorities.

I had been enamored with the Hispanic culture since college when I volunteered among California’s migrant workers in the Central Valley. Also, the theory of personality types has offered me an explanation for human differences.

Q: What advice can you give about raising bi-cultural children?

A: Listen and learn about your partner’s culture. Then, agree on your priorities and the values you want to impart to your children. There are many ways to live life other than the way you were raised. Learn what science has discovered about children’s emotional needs. You may find a healthier way to raise offspring than how the previous generation did it.

Our children are open to differences between races, income levels and customs because they’ve experienced different cultures with diverse expectations. They tend to be flexible and accepting of others unlike them.

Q: Was it difficult for you while writing the book to disclose personal information and stories? How do you decide what information to include and what topics are off-limits?

A: It was more difficult with the first book because I wrote about an important religious rule that I broke. (Angie’s note: Getting pregnant before she was married.) Initially, I felt afraid of being judged in the same way my mother had judged (me). I knew a memoir writer can be harshly criticized by others who have narrow viewpoints of what is right and wrong. People like to judge others’ decisions when they don’t mirror their own.

I remember the day I presented the chapter about the circumstances of my first pregnancy to my writer’s critique group in front of male members. I was super self-conscious and embarrassed. But I soon discovered that writing about uncomfortable incidents takes away their shame. Being honest about one’s life is a relief.

Q: What were some of the expectations society placed on you as a wife and a mother? What changes have you personally seen regarding gender roles for women in the past 60 years?

A: In the 1970s a husband was expected to be the breadwinner and head of the household as opposed to sharing decisions and duties equitably. Improvement has certainly been slow.

In terms of changes in the workforce, when I was pregnant, pregnancy was seen as a disability that required leaving a job two months before the baby’s birth. Contraceptives had been available for only a few years. And employers today can’t legally discriminate against a pregnant woman and force her to quit. Also during most of my career, women felt they could do little about sexual harassment. The #MeToo movement changed that.

Q: What do you hope readers gain from reading the story of you and your husband’s relationship?

A: The first is that the challenges of a mixed cultural marriage are worth the extra effort it takes. There is the potential to learn new, often better, ways to accomplish life’s tasks in an intimate relationship with someone from another country.

Marriage is like a dance but with both partners taking turns leading. It’s OK for one partner to step up and the other partner to step back as their situation requires it. It’s also sometimes worth “hanging in there” and persisting to make a marriage work.

And finally, there is value for both people in a partnership to use their strengths equally. A man comfortable in his own masculinity won’t fear a strong woman. The most important ingredient in a satisfying relationship is mutual respect and appreciation.

If you haven’t read our review of LaTorre’s new book – which came out this week – check it out here.


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