The duration, scope and significance of the story of champagne as both a beverage and a region is rich. This richness offers as much depth to the experience of drinking champagne as it does to learning of its history. For the curious minds out there wanting to explore beyond the glass, we’ve compiled a list of champagne and sparkling wine books to get you started. Folks interested in champagne will find value in any of these texts, but do be thinking about the breadth of knowledge you are seeking as some resources may be found much denser than others!
The Best Champagne Books Overall
*Champagne: The Essential Guide to the Wines, Producers, and Terroirs of the Iconic Region
Peter Liem, 328 pages
This uber comprehensive guide which won its author James Beard Foundation’s 2018 Cookbook Award comes as a box set, and is replete with seven vintage vineyard maps by cartographer Louis Larmat. The guide weighs its historical focus on the modern and contemporary role of champagne. In addition to his own writings on the topic, Peter Liem has also served as the Champagne regional consultant for the most recent edition of The World Atlas of Wine and is a co-found of the world’s premier champagne event La Fete du Champagne; you can be rest assured that this is a source of all sources on all things champagne.
*World Encyclopedia of Champagne and Sparkling Wine
Tom Stevenson & Essi Avellan, 528 pages
Tom Stevenson is widely regarded as the world’s foremost authority on champagne. In this weighty reference, he partners with Essi Avellan to produce a guide best suited for those interested in wine ratings. Utilizing a unique 100 point scale, sparkling wines of the world, not only champagne, are awarded ratings based on overall merit — regardless of technique or provenance. While this innovative approach really levels the table for non-champagne sparklers, it might drive the champagne devotee a bit mad to see their favorite and esteemed producers being rated against ancestral method or declassified wines, for instance. But take it with a grain of salt; this is a serious guide, renowned for the information it provides and consistently a go-to for sparkling wine lovers all over the world since its first publication in 1998.
*The Ultimate Guide to Champagne
Liz Palmer, 316 pages
This definitive guide to champagne that serves as an excellent referential text will also aid the very serious traveler and buyer alike. It includes market statics, vintage reports, and regional-Champagne restaurant and travel recommendations. The density of Palmer’s research in this book is belied by its beautiful layout that makes the information more digestible (infographics people where you at?) and less daunting (side bars throughout provide sequestered space for more detailed and technical info that can be skimmed over and returned at a later time). This is a great buy for those wanting to build their knowledge incrementally and for folks interested in understanding champagne in industry-wide contexts.
*But First, Champagne: A Modern Guide to the World’s Favorite Wine
David White, 300 pages
Founder and editor of terroirist.com David White has crafted this 101-style guide to captivate, entertain and deliver a wealth of information for all levels of champagne lovers. It covers history, geography, production and economics, and offers producer profiles for both growers and houses alike.”
Best for Travel Planning & Tasting
*Guide Veron des Champagnes 2022
Now fully digitized, this annual publication is a must-have for those wanting to stay up to date on producer profiles or those planning a trip to champagne. In this guide, producers included are not subject to ratings but are listed alphabetically and there is a growing emphasis on ecology-conscious makers. Michel Veron is a professor of oenology and every edition of this text is contributed to by the students of his program — burgeoning wine professionals that have their fingers on the pulse of happenings in the world of champagne.
*The Champagne Guide 2020-2021
In his yearly guide, Tyson Stelzer profiles, assesses and rates champagnes from over one-hundred producers that span from grower-makers to the major champagne houses. The latest edition looks at over eight-hundred cuvées and offers maps and updates on how past vintages are drinking. There is also a very useful chapter for the beginner that seeks to demystify the champagne label. In general, though, this is a regional guide for serious champagne nerds.
*A Scent of Champagne: 8,000 Champagnes Tested and Rated
Another rated-and-ranked style guide, this one from Richard Juhlin, the world record holder for most champagnes tasted, offers experiential how tos on tasting, collecting and organizing. Anecdotes and memoiresque writing is woven into the accolade-based and list-forward content.
Best Historical & Biographical
*The Widow Clicquot
This oenobiography recounts the life and major contributions to Champagne of the widow Clicquot: the infamous young woman who took over management of the esteemed champagne house after her husband’s death. It is an enjoyable read that surveys champagne history and one of the inimitable characters that advanced its development.
*Champagne: How the World’s Most Glamorous Wine Triumphed Over War and Hard Times
Don & Petie Kladstrup
The Kladstrups take us on a journey through the Champagne region durings its most trying times: war, occupation and destitution. The history covered in this text illuminates the perseverance of the region to wade through tumult and emerge as the Champagne empire it is today. This book is particularly suited for those with additional interest in French and European military history.
*When Champagne Became French
Professor Kolleen Guy lays down a compelling assessment of French nationality and identity contextualized in the socio-economic history of champagne, particularly during its rise to fame as a global luxury good through the years 1820-1920. This academic manuscript has been awarded numerous scholarly awards and received high accolades for its value in champagne research.
Bursting Bubbles serves many a reader purpose: it’s myth-busting, trivia-rich and trend-focused and will serve the information seeker as well as the trip planner. There is particular focus on the champagne movement over the past few decades and an emphasis on récoltant manipulant producers. Walters is a long-time wine writer and vineyard owner with a background in merchanting.
Unique Formats & Cocktails
*Champagne: A History of Bubbles
Former member of the Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne and French native Daniel Lorson delivers accessible champagne 101 information in this approachable graphic novel form. It’s a quick read at forty-eight pages.
*Better with Bubbles: An Effervescent Education in Champagnes & Sparkling Wines
In this text, which is divided into two sections (champagne and other sparklers) Ariel Arce extrapolates on the world of sparkling wines from her perspective as an international restauranteur. Concerned with optimizing and making playful the consumer experience, Better with Bubbles is the answer to your need for a wine-niche coffee table art book.
For those looking to fuse their newly acquired champagne knowledge with next social gather, checkout these two great titles offering recipes and information on sparkling wine based cocktails:
*Bubbly: a collection of champagne and sparkling cocktails
*Let’s Get Fizzical
And as always, if you’re a champagne lover that draws on tasting as part of the learning repertoire, be sure to have a good wine tasting journal on hand. Wine Folly’s signature tasting journal is a well-designed, compact option, but there are many styles out there to choose from depending on your writing needs.