Friday, September 18, 2009

ChampagneGuide.net in Vinforum

ChampagneGuide.net was written up by Knut Sogner in the July issue of Vinforum, the Norwegian wine magazine edited by Scandinavia's first Master of Wine, Arne Ronold. The article is also posted online at the Vinforum website, but if you don't read Norwegian, here is a translation of the text. Special thanks to Kari-Anne Hamre for the translation, and Joseph Di Blasi of Vinosseur for bringing the article to my attention. Tusen takk!

The Champagne Guide

Not long ago ”Nettspalten” wrote about a new newsletter concerning Champagne (Champagnewarrior.com), and suddenly now there’s another new website dealing just with Champagne, ChampagneGuide.net (www.champagneguide.net). This time there’s a familiar name behind it, Peter Liem, one of the pioneers behind serious publications in reference to wine on the internet.

Peter Liem, together with Kirk Wille, was behind the Riesling Report, a publication to be reckoned with which was started by the two young men from Oregon, USA as far back as 2000. The Riesling Report had a short life, but Peter Liem has been writing about wine for the American wine zine “Wine & Spirits” for the past few years. He is stationed in Champagne and for a while he has been blogging “Besotted Ramblings and Other Drivel” (www.peterliem.com), a site which is free of charge and highly recommended. I also highly recommend the ChampagneGuide.net, a service with an annual cost of USD 89,- Liem is both an experienced writer and interested in Champagne. He stays away from giving points and ranges wines by a simple star system where three stars is the top rating.

He belongs to a growing number of wine aficionados trying to understand the wines based on what the producers are trying to achieve with their wines. The web site is simplified by combining producer portraits with tasting notes of a few somewhat new wines, but this is merely a staged limitation of information. It holds exact and original knowledge which in a well-written manner provides a very good background for forming your own opinions.

This pay-for-service along with his article on Besotted Ramblings, gives a wide presentation of Champagne. I haven’t fully constructed a complete image of his preferences. I register that he is concerned with young, experimental producers, yet he does not come across as a slave to trends. He has several very good and new – and interesting – descriptions of established houses. For those of us who have visited Champagne – the villages, small producers, the big houses – Liem provides the right associations which tells us he has a deep understanding of what is going on. He also uses – like in the Riesling Report – photographs in an illustrating and well thought out manner. Not in the least he writes something as rare as thoughtful tasting notes which give the reader additional information and something to think about.

This is a new service and thus it is still too early to pass any judgment. There are still many producers yet to be portrayed. Also yours truly has been busy and still not read everything. But so far it seems Liem could be for Champagne what Burghound is for Burgundy, namely a safe haven for those of us coming from the outside. Liem probably won’t get the commercial breakthrough Burghound has enjoyed as he doesn’t provide easy point systems or easily distributed newsletters or publicizes as many tasting notes, but he has sunk so deep into Champagne that he can offer an insider’s understanding.

Yes, if I had to pick one website for Champagne, I would pick Liem over Brad Baker (Champagne Warrior) or Richard Juhlin (www.champagneclub.com) even if the three compliment each other.

Knut Sogner

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