Champagnes… Behind the Bubbles: Book Review

Champagnes Behind the BubblesChampagne. The epitome of glamour, style, and luxury.  A symbol of celebration reserved for special occasions. Pour yourself a glass of bubbles and come along for a fascinating journey into the world of Champagnes… Behind the Bubbles.

Jayne Powell (known as Champagne Jayne), a well-respected Champagne advocate, independent reviewer and “sparkling edutainment“ speaker,  shares her expert knowledge in a soon to be released book, Champagnes… Behind the Bubbles, part of the Great, Grand & Famous series by Arbon Publishing.

After an enticing introduction by Fritz Gubler, Powell sets the tone of the book with an introductory chapter, What is Champagne, by defining “the C word” and cleverly breaking it into gender under the female and male gene – La Champagne, as the region where the grapes are grown and Le Champagne as the sparkling wine.

Six sections including a reference guide make up the 240 page coffee table book with lavish illustrations.

History in a Bottle chronicles the birth of Champagne from the Roman times and references the indomitable Asterix Le Gaulois of the famous cartoon series, where in one of his adventures, he collects a fizzy wine from Reims.

This section is no dry historical account. Punctuated with sexual tales relating to the power of the fizz, the book tells of the orgies at Versailles which, according to Cardinal Richelieu, didn’t start until “everyone was in a state of abandonment only champagne can bring”. We learn of  the adulterous confessions to Dom Pérignon which led champagne to the royal tables of the Sun King and how Catherine the Great, who had a voracious appetite for sex, would ply her young officers with Champagne for courage.

Drappier PosterIn perhaps what is my take on a nod to early food bloggers, the book reveals that Louis XIV’s endorsement of Champagne resulted in an increased demand at a time where “every gesture, every word, every mouthful the King touched was reported in great detail and immediately imitated”.

In the Campaign for Champagne, several champagne houses are detailed; each has been chosen for its marked influence on the region and the promotion of its wine.

Moët et Chandon, Mercier, Heidsieck, Krug, Pol Roger, Ruinart and Salon are but a few of the Houses featured. Powell lends her voice to their history and each Champagne is described with its visual characteristics, the nose, the palate, the grape blend and the author’s note in an easy reference guide.

The book pays homage to the matriarchs of Champagne with The Women Behind the Bubbles. From the infamous Madame Clicquot, to Madame Bollinger and Madame Pommery whose motto is “Qualité d’abord” (quality first) among others, these inspirational chapters detail the personal circumstances that led to the women’s involvement in a predominantly male business, their contributions to the industry and the legacy they left behind. Ending with Carol Duval-Leroy, who has been likened to a modern day Madame Clicquot, the chapter celebrates her successes of turning the Champagne House around and doubling sales within a decade.

Champagne Culture profiles the successful world of marketing and details how Champagne Houses align their brands with film, fashion and art. From the famed dancer Jane Avril in Toulouse-Lautrec’s Divan Japonais poster, to art by Czech Art Nouveau painter Alphonse Mucha, the Belle Epoque bottle of Perrier-Jouët or the Jean-Paul Gaultier clad Piper Heidsieck, these have become iconic emblems that attribute to the popularity and longevity of the brand.

Avid James Bond fans will revel in the Champagne 007: Secret Agent of Seduction chapter which details the 007 chronology and the champagne houses and vintages that feature in every film. We start with Dom Pérignon (including the never produced 1957) onto Taitinger and then onto Bollinger which coincided with the introduction of Roger Moore as Bond. With champagne used as a seduction technique throughout the films, little wonder that Bollinger Grande Année has been dubbed as the Champagne of James Bond.

Salon PostcardFrom Grape to Glass details the science of Champagne, educating the reader into the world of terroir and harvesting, first and second fermentation, remouage et dégorgement that are unique to Champagne. Regions and subregions are defined, grape varieties are profiled with the various styles with a chapter on matching food with Champagne.

An Aide Memoire of ten important Champagne facts followed by a glossary of Champagne and tasting terms completes the References section.

Champagnes… Behind the Bubbles is beautifully illustrated with historical and arty scenes, black and white images, vintage Champagne posters, retro illustrations and colourful photographs. The book’s layout, with headings in golden Champagne colour, leading quotes from luminaries such as Brillat-Savarin and Winston Churchill and easily digestible paragraphs make it a pleasure to read.

Jayne Powell’s voice is evident throughout. Having attended one of her edutainment evenings earlier this year, the tone has the same passionate and effervescent delivery. Her love of France and all things French brings a joie de vivre to the reading experience. Where the book excels is in the historical and entertaining anecdotes that are set within a political and social background, the depth of knowledge of the featured Champagne houses and the personal tales of the people behind them, making it a valuable resource and an informative reference book for enthusiasts and connoisseurs without the tedium of a guidebook.

Champagnes… Behind the Bubbles augments the thirst for knowledge and for the sparkling wine. With each chapter, you’ll want to reach for a glass with renewed appreciation for Champagne, both male and female. Santé!

~ ~ ~

Disclaimer: This is NOT a sponsored review. All opinions are my own.

About the author

Corinne Mossati

Corinne Mossati is a drinks writer, author of GROW YOUR OWN COCKTAIL GARDEN, SHRUBS & BOTANICAL SODAS and founder/editor of Gourmantic, Cocktails & Bars and The Gourmantic Garden. She has been writing extensively about spirits, cocktails, bars and cocktail gardening in more recent years. She is a spirits and cocktail competition judge, Icons of Whisky Australia nominee, contributor to Diageo Bar Academy, cocktail developer and is named in Australian Bartender Magazine's Top 100 Most Influential List. Her cocktail garden was featured on ABC TV’s Gardening Australia and has won several awards. She is a contributor to Real World Gardener radio program and is featured in several publications including Pip Magazine, Organic Gardener, Australian Bartender and Breathe (UK). Read the full bio here.