Book Review: But First, Champagne

But First, Champagne gently grabs you by the hand and lays bare the magical world of Champagne. David White’s modern guide to the world’s favorite wine begins with the essentials -- the history, technical aspects, and anecdotal stories -- conveyed with great prose and clarity. It’s like you are practically reliving his narrated tales.

The reader is left with a sense of attachment to Champagne's people and traditions. It is as if you are in the vineyard during those great harvests, deep down in the caves innovating alongside the cellar masters, and popping off bottles to celebrate international recognition of your wine. But the story of Champagne is not a fairy tale. Heartfelt tragedies include invaders stealing countless bottles, families hiding away in the very caves that once saw prosperity, and wine regions being destroyed by war. All the while, the grapes were patiently waiting on the vines to be harvested.

This book is for everyone. If you are just a beginner, you will learn how Champagne is made, what grapes are used, and who the heck is suing over the use of the name “Champagne” on products. If you are a well-learned wine-o, David White’s fresh take on Champagne’s history and his sharp understanding of current producers will make you thirstier than ever. Whatever your level, it is just as easy to skip to the parts that interest you most as reading the whole thing!

In fact, you will certainly discover something new. Personally, before reading But First, Champagne I did not know about “Champagne Charlie,” the man credited with introducing Champagne to the US market and then later mistakenly being charged with espionage. Yet there is much more to be learned, including popes who love Champagne, Great Gatsby references, and Kermit Lynch’s favorite Champagne producers, of course.

But First, Champagne is a gratifying read. The book is not pretentious in any sort of way, rather simply admires the historical process that has brought about so many bubbles. At times, one forgets the book is about wine at all (in a good way), while the people, land, and tradition take center stage. But First, Champagne is great if you are looking for a new read or need something handy for reference. Either way, enjoy the rambunctious party that is the story of Champagne.

David White's But First, Champagne availabe on Amazon.