The Champagne Guide 2014-2015 by Tyson Stelzer
The updated guide to the Champagne region
By Laura McKinnon
When I think of Champagne I think of luxury. So as you would expect when I purchase a guide to Champagne I have certain expectations, which much to my joy, all of which the The Champagne Guide 2014-2015 meets.
Firstly the presentation. Reminiscent of a bottle of champagne, the art-deco-style, hard-cover book is black accented with gold, and has a title that replicates a Champagne label. Without being garish it catches your eye and gives you a hint of the quality inside.
A book for novices and experts alike the guide opens with an introductory essay on why we need not just a Champagne guide but this guide in particular, now a regularly published guide (recently taken over by Hardie Grant) that gives the most up-to-date tasting reviews.
An explanation of how to use the guide and the scoring system (which ranges from 80 to 100 points) follows. Wines that achieve 100 points are judged to be the pinnacle of character, balance and persistance. Wines judged to have obtained 80 points are simply described as horrid. The moment I saw that very honest and to-the-point description I knew I would like Tyson's style and could expect honest reviews of the wines.
The guide then continues with 'The Champagne Hall of Honour', which ranks the best producers in Champagne this year and the best Champagnes of the year by price point, plus the best blanc de blancs, blanc de noirs, rose and low dosage champagnes.
The ten-out-of-ten producers for this edition are Billecart-Salmon, Bollinger, Krug and Salon, with these ratings determined considerably based on their entry level cuvee. This is promising news as it means you can experience a ten out of ten Champagne without having to re-mortgage your house.
A legend on the page previous means that whether you are paying in Australian Dollars, Euros, British Pounds or other currencies you will be able to match wines to prices. And it is nice to see that regardless of your price point you will have at least 18 wines to choose from with a score of 'Almost Excellent' 93 points or higher.
This simple list also makes it easy to find a comparable Champagne from one of the lesser known Champagne houses. I know I am guilty of gravitating to the big names simply because of reputation and previous experience, but this list removes those barriers making it easier to choose something different.
Essays full of updated and frank commentary on the issues facing Champagne such as global warming, parallel imports, excessive yield and how to avoid what Tyson describes as 'Fizzers' otherwise known as corked, stale or lightstruck Champagne give a great overview and insight into the region and wines.
As in previous editions the 2014-2015 volume goes on to give fully independent assessments, with profiles and ratings, of 95 Champagne producers of all sizes. Reviews of over 500 wines are based on recent tastings, and the notes are accompanied by full-colour bottle images.
These comprehensive reviews do mean the book is a little bigger and heaver than you might want if you plan on taking it when shopping at your local wine merchant, but this is easily fixed by purchasing the ebook version for your smart phone or tablet.
It is rare that I will simply sit and read a wine guide, using it instead to occasionally check tasting notes against my own or to find a comparable wine. This guide is the exception. As I was reviewing The Champagne Guide 2014-2015 I often found I became engrossed in the essays, descriptions of the houses and the reviews, so much so I forgot to take notes and had to go back and read sections again.
This book would make a beautiful gift, or simply a great addition to your own library as it is truly as described – the most comprehensive and current Champagne guide I have come across.
The Champagne Guide 2014-2015 is published in Australia by Hardie Grant (Melbourne, 2013; hc, 360pp) and retails in Australia for $39.95
- France - all (FR)
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