Decanter book reviews

9 of 12
Books, The Champagne Guide

The Champagne Guide 2012–201- Tyson Stelzer - Wine Press, £32 (or £22.50 as ebook)

Of the new generation of Champagne specialists, Tyson Stelzer is certainly one of the most interesting, having hit the ground running with his brilliantly up-to-date The Champagne Guide 2011, which caused a bit of a stir. Stelzer’s in-your-face style and inclusion of lists such as ‘Name and Shame’ caused at least one reviewer to wonder whether he ‘might be seen as rude, or worse’ outside of his native Australia. He has now followed this book up with a second edition that is twice the size, and lists more than 400 Champagnes from almost 100 different producers.

Champagne invariably matures more quickly in Australia than in Europe due to higher storage temperatures, making an Australian-slanted Champagne guide like Stelzer’s long overdue. He qualifies his notes and scores by where and when he tasted each Champagne (and Australian buyers should look exclusively to the Australian-tasted notes), prices the wines in Australian dollars, provides an availability box at the end of each producer entry, and lists Australian retailers with the Champagnes they stock at the rear of the book.

I won’t comment on the rating of individual producers, as we all have our own preferences and prejudices, and where I disagree with Stelzer it is obvious that his palate has a greater tolerance for what I describe as overly oxidative styles. However, there is no doubt that Stelzer’s palate can be relied on within a given spectrum of style. In addition, he not only knows his subject, he is up to date with the changes going on. My only complaint is the narrow spread of his scores, with 85/100 points the lowest score in the book and a quasi-faulty score at that; even Champagnes scoring in the early 90s can include some distinctly negative remarks. He crams more than a third of all the wines in this book between 95 and 100 points. Personally, I would like to see a greater spread of scores in the next edition, but at the very least readers deserve scoring definitions.

Tom Stevenson