4 out of 4 stars
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I love wine, whether it's expensive ice wine for a special occasion or the cheapest boxed wine I can find. But where non-bubbly wines feel relaxing and peaceful, champagne feels like a celebration in a bottle. Regardless of how many glasses of wine I've had over the years, if you asked me how wine was made, I'd just shrug my shoulders and say "people stomp on grapes and then ferment the juice, right?" So when I saw The Instant Champagne Expert by Rudy Ernst, Ph.D., I dove at the chance to review it. After all, the only thing better than learning something new is learning it quickly!
The Instant Champagne Expert is a 27-page booklet all about champagne: what it is, how it was originally created, the differences between champagne and wine, the best bubbly labels from various regions (it's not true champagne if it comes from anywhere outside of Champagne, after all!), why people should drink it, the best ways to open a bottle and the type of glass to use. Keep in mind that all of this is packed into a book that's not even 30 pages long, so it's all told at a brisk pace.
I really appreciated Rudy's humor in The Instant Champagne Expert. The quote above comes from one of the first pages in the book, and that same wittiness is carried throughout the rest of the book as well. Rudy also does an exceptional job of balancing that wittiness with well-researched facts. While the book effectively works as a primer for everything about champagne, I never felt confused or lost along the way. In fact if anything the opposite is true: the more I read, the more I felt compelled to research even more. For example, did you know that Dom Pérignon isn't just the name of an expensive champagne brand, it's also the name of the blind monk who originally created champagne? Or that Madame Clicquot - "the first woman in history to run an international commercial empire" - was the one who created the process that makes champagne so clear? And if tips and tricks are more your speed, did you know about the trick with a silver spoon that (reportedly) allows a bottle of champagne to retain its bubbles better than a stopper once it's opened?Is it therefore a coincidence that the King James Bible mentions the word “Wine” 231 times, but the word “Milk” only 48 times? Certainly not!
There were also plenty of things I learned that I can actually apply to my enjoyment of champagne. For example, now I know the difference between brut and demi-sec champagne, and that I really want to try some doux (the sweetest) champagne. I also learned that champagne is cleaner than other wines because it's fermented twice, and that it has calcium! Who needs milk when you can drink champagne?
The Instant Champagne Expert isn't perfect though. I found six grammatical errors while I was reading, although none of them were terribly annoying. I also don't entirely agree with the author on one single point. He wrote that readers should "respect the hard work that goes into every bottle of Champagne by not blending it with orange Juice [sic]." While I've never done this myself, I think everyone should enjoy the foods and drinks they want to enjoy however they'd like. I may think that dipping a remarkable steak in A1 is ridiculous, but if that's what someone wants to do, so be it! The same goes with wine, and if a mixed drink convinces someone to enjoy champagne, then have at it.
Luckily, Rudy only made one such comment in the book. Since there were only 6 errors in the book, I still think that The Instant Champagne Expert is worthy of 4 out of 4 stars. Anyone who likes wine of any type, especially champagne, and doesn't know much about it will absolutely love this book. Rudy's upbeat, informative, witty, and friendly writing is perfect for beginners, and I'm definitely sold on spending a few extra bucks every so often to get a nice bottle of champagne now!
The Instant Champagne Expert
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