3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars
A good Champagne guide, but not without flaws, 3 Jan 2011
Richard Juhlin is a well respected Champagne expert (in particular an excellent taster), and has written several books on Champagne. This Champagne guide (originally published in Swedish and English in 2008) is smaller in format than the previous "so-and-so many thousand Champagnes" book by him, and seems to be intended to (also) be brought along on trips to the region. It is a good book for that purpose, but it is not without flaws.
Most of the book consists of short producer profiles including scores for their Champagnes (one line each). They run from two-three lines of text for the profile + scores for 1-2 wines to a couple of pages for the big houses.
Richard Juhlin scores Champagnes on a 0-100 scale giving two numbers, one for "now" and one for "potentital future maximum", such as 87 (89). I find the way they are shown fundamentally flawed. There is no indication of when "now" was - when he tasted them, which in many cases was several years ago? or extrapolated to the publication year 2008? This also means that for non-vintage Champagne, there is no clue if a relatively recent cuvée or one 5-10 years ago formed the basis for the score in the book. There is also no indication of how far into the future the maximum could be expected to be achieved (which should reasonably be very different for, say, Brut Imperial and Salon). Although I realise that a full description of each Champagne doesn't fit into this format, a single score + a recommended drinking window (at least for vintage Champagne) á la Wine Advocate and many others had probably been more useful for the readers.
Another thing to realise is that not everyone has exactly the same taste as Mr. Juhlin. This is of course the case for using any wine critics' scores. I perceive him to be rather Blanc de blancs/Chardonnay-oriented, very dosage/sweetness-avert (to the extent that he always seems to prefer Extra Brut and Zero Dosage wines, despite some other critics' caution that these may not always cellar as well), quite tolerant of oaky Champagne, and to give surprisingly high scores to some of the big houses' standard Champagnes. If this is more-or-less your preferences, you're probably going to agree with R. Juhlin's scores.
While the short producer profiles are mostly good, I've found some of them to be outdated or not quite factually correct. (The use of oak by Roederer, for example. Cristal is partially oaked, while Juhlin claims it's unoaked.)
For a sort-of travel guide, it is a bit thin on maps. There are some suggested routes indicated on maps (with village names indicated), and the subregions of Champagne are broadly indicated on one map, but you can't find a map covering all villages in each subregion, which is a bit of a drawback.
In general, his style of writing is enthusiastic and filled with superlatives rather than "scolarly" or "dry/strictly factual". Despite this, Juhlin is honest in his evaluations of the various producers - some get criticism rather than superlatives. The introductory material in the book is rather short, but OK in coverage for a book with this profile. However, it's too short for this to be anything near a "definitive reference", for that you would need more text on e.g. production and history, which would also need more illustrations and perhaps be organised better.
But it's definitely worth bringing on your trips to Champagne!