ROBERT WALTERS, ALLEN & UNWIN, P/B, $37
Australian wine merchant Robert Walters tells the story of everyone’s favourite French fizz in an engaging, pretension-free manner, interspersing history with the stories of modern-day grower-producers who are taking on the Grandes Marques. Walters begins by explaining how sparkling wine hasn’t always been fabulous. Before the 18th century, wine with bubbles in it was considered faulty, with some growers and merchants even referring to it as vin du diable – the devil’s wine. However, certain members of the elite decided they quite liked this fizzy stuff and began specifically requesting more mousseux, and suddenly it was all the rage. “Sweet, cold and bubbly, Champagne was to become the world’s first mass-market party drug,” writes Walters. “It not only went down a treat, it went straight to your head.” The role marketing has had to play in the rise and rise of champers is a recurring theme, and it’s fascinating to learn that the big-budget ads and celebrity endorsements with which we’re bombarded today are in fact a variation on a centuries-old theme.