“Shadows in the vineyard : the true story of a plot to poison the world’s greatest wine” is an interesting mix of history, biography, and true crime. In spite of the subtitle’s hype true crime takes a backseat here. There is just not enough mystery in the story to fill a book. Maximillian Potter took an intriguing mixture of genres and produced an enjoyable and informative book.
With looks at how religious orders established winemaking in France, the establishment of fine California wines, and how, after World War II French wine became rooted on American vines*, and the biography of the head of Burgundy’s most prestigious winery Potter has managed to fill out the tale of poisoned vines to a book length tale. And, somehow he managed to keep it all interesting. I do have to say that at some points I found the book a little disjointed, for instance I spent way too much time wondering what Madame de Pompadour had to do with the narrative. In time I learned but, for me, the delay was distracting as was some of the bouncing back and forth between current events and generations of family history.
Still I enjoyed the book. My limited knowledge of the wine world was not a hindrance. My wife is a big fan of wine and thanks to her I have picked up a little information. She encouraged me to watch the movie “Somm”, a 2012 documentary, that gave me background to understand how impressive a feat it was for someone to simply show up at the test site, talk his way in, and receive a perfect score. Still other events mentioned in the book are the basis for, “Bottle Shock” an enjoyable comedy / drama from 2008. Potter’s book is fun, informative, and, overall, an easy read. I finally have something wine related to show my wife.
I received this book from special offer from LibraryThing’s Early Reviewer program offering books by the publisher Hachette in an attempt to get information about their books out to the public in spite of Amazon blacklisting Hachette works over pricing issues. In order to further that goal if you think this review is worth it, spread it around.
* Yes, literally rooted on American vines, this is one topic covered that I would like to learn more about.