2005, Harper Collins; New York
This book is subtitled ‘How the World’s Most Glamorous Wine Triumphed Over War and Hard Times’ and is more about a concept than a drink. Champagne as a beverage is discussed very little; the authors don't mention aromas, flavour or anything resembling a tasting note. Instead the focus is on Champagne as the product of a place, Champagne as a product of marketing, Champagne as an economic unit, Champagne as politics and Champagne as a collection of shared histories.
Starting in the middle-ages the authors move through the history of the region, bringing their account alive through tales of the vibrant characters that have emerged to shape Champagne’s reputation. While many of the stories are enlightening and enjoyable what I found most interesting is the historic links made to the Champagne of today. The emergence of marketing, the pressures of global trade and international markets, environmental concerns, the role of scientific development, relationships between the growers and the big houses and the AOC rules are all put into historic perspective by the Kladstrups.
Champagne is a drink that mystifies me. It is just as much a product of marketing as it is of terroir; promoting itself as “the drink to celebrate with” has been the key to Champagne’s success. The majority of Champagne is also the product of large companies who are in many ways are the anti-thesis of traditional French wine making; specific terroir and vintage are ignored in the aim of consistency (well at least for the NV offerings that us poor mortals can still barely afford to drink). The Kladstrups successfully use engaging historical accounts and tales of key personalities to weave an entertaining and informative picture of Champagne. Though it is more a book about history rather than wine, Champagne is certainly worth a read for anyone interested in the bubbly juice.
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