It’s Christmas Day, but sommelier Oumy Diaw wants all your pain to be limited to Champagne each and every day.
That begins to explain why the native of Senegal — who has offices in Manhattan, Paris and Dakar — trademarked her title as “The Champagne Sommelier” and now is distributing the coffee-table book Champagne: A History of Bubbles in the United States and Canada. Published via Editions du Signe, the hardcover is $35 and available via Diaw’s online boutique and previously through Amazon.
“Here is the first Champagne 101 book written by a French author born and raised in Champagne,” Diaw told Great Northwest Wine. “This graphic novel is a non-fiction and reflects perfectly the ‘essence of Champagne’ as a brand on its own.”
It’s written by Daniel Lorson, a Champenois whose father owned a vineyard. Lorson recently retired as head of communications for Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne, the governing body of Champagne.
Lorson produced the book in collaboration with Jean-Marie Cuzin and illustrator Erik Arnoux, and they take a fresh approach by presenting it as a graphic novel. Think of Champagne: A History of Bubbles as a 48-page comic strip that’s reminiscent of the brilliant artwork in the long-running Prince Valiant series by Hal Foster.
There’s an appropriate modern-day introduction to the book as it begins with Swedish divers in the Baltic Sea who find 168 bottles of well-preserved sparkling wine within an old shipwreck. The dive team isn’t sure what to make of the bubbles, so they meet with wine historians to determine the origins of their discovery.
Lorson takes that investigative work and weaves it into a tapestry detailing the historical timeline of Champagne, both the region and the wine.
It turns out those recovered bottles were made by Veuve Clicquot, which reigns today as one of the world’s top Champagne houses, and the yesteryear winery Julgar. Here’s one account of the fascinating shipwreck story.
Champagne: A History of Bubbles is chock-full of trivia. It touches on the origin of Gosset, which recently celebrated its 425th anniversary of Champagne production, and explains why Louis XIV did not consume wines from Champagne.
Lorson downplays the notion that Benedictine monk Dom Pierre Perignon “invented” Champagne; he details the contributions of Jean-Remy Moet, Nicole-Barbe Clicquot-Ponsardin and Madame Pommery, and points out why 1889 was an important year for winemakers in Champagne.
There’s also the reminder of how the market for Champagne fizzled for decades as a result of World War I, the Bolshevik Revolution, Prohibition and the Great Depression.
And sports fans will appreciate the story behind the tradition of Formula One drivers spraying/wasting Champagne.
Lorson and his team produced a fun, informative and quick read for anyone with an interest in wine. Champagne and other forms of sparkling wine often are viewed in North America as beverages for only aficionados and weddings, but Champagne: A History of Bubbles helps to strip away that stuffiness.
On a whole, many consider sparkling wines to be the most versatile food-pairing wines on the planet, and the quality and price point of many — particularly those from the likes of Michelle and Treveri in Washington state and Bella Wines in British Columbia — should make bubbles a stable at the dining table, particularly in the Pacific Northwest where seafood, fresh produce and farmers markets rightfully take center stage.
As Bella owner-winemaker Jay Drysdale says, “Every day brings little wins, moments of joy, and a life worth rewarding. Why wait? Celebrate today.”