Monday, June 27, 2022

On the Coffee Table: Tilar J. Mazzeo

Title: The Widow Clicquot: The Story of a Champagne Empire and the Woman Who Ruled It
Author: Tilar J. Mazzeo

via Amazon

The Widow Clicquot is the biography of Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin Clicquot, builder of a Champagne empire through the most tumultuous stretch of French history.  Her life stretched from the Revolution to the Second French Empire.  Women entrepreneurs have rarely been encouraged in European history, rarely less so than in the 19th century.  Yet, Clicquot's company survives to the present day as one of the most dependable brands in the industry.  Certainly, she had some good luck along the way - Russian troops who didn't loot her cellars at the end of the Napoleonic Wars, for instance.  But she also survived plenty of bad.  Her courage, ingenuity and obsessive work ethic carried her and her company through.  

Mazzeo certainly leaves a solid impression of an impressive woman.  Unfortunately, it's not the world's most well-written biography.  Mazzeo needed a better editor.  There's loads of unnecessary repetition - at one point, I counted three consecutive sentences that said exactly the same thing.  I also found a triple negative - or was it, in fact, quadruple?  My wife's take: Mazzeo didn't actually have enough material to make for a decent story.  The author generated loads of suppositional filler where surviving personal correspondence was lacking - a clumsy and ineffective effort to make the subject more relatable.

I enjoyed the subject matter.  Both the wine production and the French cultural history were fascinating.  I'd love to read better-written books about similar subjects.

I am curious about the product, apparently drier than it was during The Widow's own tenure.  One of our local wine shops does carry it.  Standard bottle?  $66.99.  Double magnum: $399.99.  So, I doubt we'll be trying it anytime soon.  But maybe someday when we're in the mood to splurge...


  1. Interesting fact based on blind tests: Once you get over about $10/bottle on wine, the quality of the wine doesn't really change much. That's probably why my favorite wine is about $12.
    Champagne is fine, but it's never my first choice.

    1. We don't spend a lot on wine. And I'm a firm believer in Spanish and South American wines - much better bang for the buck than anything French or even Californian.