Sunday, April 05, 2009

Peter Liem's ChampagneGuide.Net

Peter Liem is my good friend. Please don't let that compromise what I'm about to say about his new Champagne website. I'm an honest guy and I would never recommend something here without fully believing in it. Happily, I can write a rave review of without any conflict of interest, because the site is just excellent.

It opens with nuanced aromas of clean organization and a feng-shui-esque sense of space. But don't let the spare grace fool you - this site crackles with vibrant energy. Information bursts forth, enveloping you in its erudite, yet accessible grasp. On the palate this site is a harmonious balance of background information and context, complex producer profiles, and vivid tasting notes. The overall effect is one that I am sure will improve as it ages gracefully - this is absolutely the finest online source of information about Champagne.
Sorry - my little tasting note-as-review joke went on longer than I thought it would, but I was enjoying myself and that's the most important thing, isn't it?

Okay, serious review now. is a great thing for anyone interested in wine. It offers detailed profiles of Champagne producers big and small. You'll find Veuve Clicquot and the other big houses, and you'll also find Henri Billiot and the other grower producers. There are at least 75 producer profiles on the site right now, and more will be added periodically. This site is based on understanding the producers, not on listing wines and scoring them.

These are informative profiles that offer just the right amount of information. They describe the producer in terms of history, location, and technique, and then provide an overview of the wines and the experience of drinking them. A profile takes no more than a few minutes to read, yet provides all of the information I want when thinking about Champagne producers, and whether or not I want to explore their wines. A list of current wines sits on the right sidebar of each producer's profile, and clicking on a wine brings you to a detailed tasting note and a rating of zero to three stars. Peter provides this sample page profiling Agrapart & Fils for curious visitors.

So far I'm kind of addicted to reading through the producer profiles, looking through their current releases and imagining all of the things I'm going to buy and drink when we climb out of this recession. I've also enjoyed playing around with the only good map of Champagne that I can find on the web.This one pinpoints each producer so you can see who lives where. But one of my favorite things to do is to use the advanced search engine. You can search for wines based on their level of dosage, grape variety, the region they come from, the vintage, the type (Blanc de Blancs, Rosé, etc.), their rating, and more. And you can combine searches. For example, you might say "show me all of the three star rated wines" (there are merely 20 out of hundreds of wines). Then you might say, "Show me all top rated Blanc de Blancs" (there are four). There are limitless ways to play with this, and since the site will be updated regularly with new content, the subscriber will always have access to the newest information about Champagne.

This site is not free, although there are parts that anyone can view. A one year subscription costs $89. This is cheap, in my opinion, for what you're getting. Peter lives in Champagne and this site represents years worth of painstaking work learning about producers and their wines, and assembling this information in one easy space. And if you're interested in Champagne and you're not a rich person, this site will save you money, plain and simple. If you have $45 to spend on a special bottle, this site can help you figure out what should be the best value for your money, after you survey what's available in your area. If you are already somewhat well-versed in Champagne, the site is a simple and economical way to delve deeper, to get a sense of how to continue exploring.

Go check out the site. It's easy to use and full of great information and writing. And yeah, I'm Peter's friend but I would have written this exact review had George W. Bush created It really is that good. Okay, maybe not Bush, but Condoleezza Rice, let's say.

1 comment:

Joe Manekin said...

A good plug, and as many folks rightfully respect your opinion, hopefully it will steer a few subscriptions Peter's way. I look forward to checking the site out a bit more.

Hey, are you going to try to get to Champagne for future visits? After returning from my first trip, I'm definitely hooked.