The Widow Clicquot: The Story of a Champagne Empire and the Woman Who Ruled It

MazzeoTilar J.

Everything but the Elves

The Widow Clicquot: The Story of a Champagne Empire and the Woman Who Ruled It

by Tilar J. Mazzeo
Collins, 265 pp., $25.95

The title refers to Barbe-Nicole Clicquot Ponsardin and the titular Champagne is Veuve (French for widow) Clicquot. Barbe-Nicole was a widow at age 27. Her husband left a successful winery, but Barbe-Nicole had no idea how to manage it. Through a combination of grit and ingenuity, within 10 years, she was one of the most renowned and wealthy female entrepreneurs in France. This book is largely descriptive of her successes, with just enough glamour and danger to keep us turning the pages. It's also a testament to author Mazzeo's pit-bull approach to research. Where many journalists might just drink a few bottles of the Champagne and Google "Clicquot," profes­sor Mazzeo (English, Colby College, Maine) digs through mountains of possible material, striking gold about as often as a tourist with a pan and a river. Her assemblage of those nuggets – 23% of the book's total pages are in research notes and a bibliography section – into The Widow Clicquot is a miraculous feat of organization, one worthy of a doctoral thesis. Luckily, the writing generally escapes the monotony of an academic's drone, and in its moments of action, this is actually a gripping story. And while the book appears to be a feminist history/business biography, it's also the appealing story of the author's odyssey.

Sign up for the Chronicle Cooking newsletter

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

If you want to submit a recipe, send it to

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More cookbook
Local Flavor
The Everything Thai Cookbook, 2nd ed.
Local chef takes the terror out of Thai

Mick Vann, June 14, 2013

Local Flavor
Paleo French Cuisine
The 10,000-year-old diet gets a French makeover

Anna Toon, June 14, 2013

More Food Reviews
A Trio of Mediterranean Dining
A Trio of Mediterranean Dining
Just when you thought you couldn't possibly get any shawarma, right?

Wayne Alan Brenner, Sept. 4, 2020

Hot Sauce: Your Lifestyle Is the Target
Hot Sauce: Your Lifestyle Is the Target
What does your favorite condiment reveal about who you are?

Wayne Alan Brenner, Aug. 28, 2020

More by Wes Marshall
Weekend Wine: Try This Chianti for a Casual Dinner
Weekend Wine: Try This Chianti for a Casual Dinner
The Medici family tree is full of great winemakers

April 24, 2021

Weekend Wine: Imported
Weekend Wine: Imported "Herculean" Wine
Profit sharing pays dividends to everyone.

Dec. 19, 2020


Christmas, cooking, cookbook, gift

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle