The Champagne Guide 2016-2017 by Tyson Stelzer »
What to celebrate with? The definitive guide to Champagne
By Laura McKinnon
This latest edition of The Champagne Guide is as luxurious a publication as you would expect of a guide to one of the world’s most premium drinks. Author Tyson Stelzer, International Wine and Spirit Communicator of the Year 2015, is recognised as an expert on Champagne and well regarded for his fearless commentary and ratings.
Yet again the quality of The Champagne Guide is first noticeable in its presentation. Like previous editions, the 2016-2017 is 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.
The guide opens with an essay 'The Joy of the Harvest' that gives the reader an insight into a vintage in Champagne, its triumphs and challenges.
This is followed by a brief description of the guide’s aims and how to use it. This is important because unless you are more than familiar with the international 100 point wine scoring system, you may think a wine with a score under 85 will still be palatable as scores such as 84 out of 100 still sound impressive. However a wine with a score of less than 85 is actually deemed faulty.
Wines that achieve 100 points are judged to be the pinnacle of character, balance and persistence. Wines judged to have obtained 80 points are simply described as horrid. It is this honestly that I have come to expect from Tyson Stelzer and I was not disappointed.
The guide then continues with 'The Champagne Hall of Honour', which ranks
- the best producers in Champagne this year,
- the best Champagnes of the year by price point, plus
- the best blanc de blancs, blanc de noirs, rosé and low-dosage Champagnes.
The ten-out-of-ten producers for this edition see Egly-Ouriet join Bollinger, Krug and Salon (who also feature in the 2014-2015 ten out of ten list), with these ratings determined considerably based on their entry level cuvee. This method of judging ensures producers are being assessed on the wines that will most widely be tasted and those that the average wine drinker such as myself has a chance of trying.
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 17 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 you may not have considered.
A summary of vintages from 1995 to 2014 shows readers the changeable nature of vintage conditions at a glance, with a simple score out of 10 at the top of each summary. For more detail you can read the summary and better understand the circumstances that lead to the score and if there were any wines that could be considered an exception. For example 1997 received a low score of 4 but 4 wines receive special mentions as being exceptions.
A series of short essays follow covering such topics as terroir, production, wine faults, Champagne houses, the use of sugar and how to serve champagne.
As in previous editions, the 2016-2017 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 mean the book is a little bigger and heavier 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 e-book version for your smart phone or tablet.
Reviewing wine guides is often difficult, especially when you have reviewed previous editions. However I can happily report I still get engrossed in the latest edition of The Champagne Guide. As I read the descriptions of vintage and the champagne houses I am transported to places I can only dream of.
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 2016-2017 by Tyson Stelzer is published in Australia by Hardie Grant (Melbourne, 2015; hc, 360pp) and retails in Australia for $39.95
See links below for our reviews of previous editions
- Melbourne Surrounds (VIC)
- Melbourne (VIC)
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