If you’re heading for the sun over the summer, you’ll probably be packing some reading material beside the sun cream and shorts. And if you’re staying at home, there’s no better way to chill out than with a page turner and a glass of wine.
Alongside the thrillers and the biographies that could find their way into your suitcase, there’s a host of wine books that are entertaining, engrossing and educational. Here are some suggestions for reading material and the wines that will enhance your enjoyment of the book.
Families of the Vine by Michael Sanders
This is the American writer’s account of two years spent with winemakers in Cahors. It tells of the joy and anguish of three wine families over a two year period. There’s the impact of a summer drought, the frantic activity during the harvest and the passion for wine that drives these individuals on. The author starts with limited knowledge and is a little intimidated by his lack of understanding. He engages with people who can teach him about the graft and craft of winemaking and tells their story. There’s also an interesting section on how his local restaurant creates a wine list paired with food.
What to drink: The families in the book all grow Malbec grapes, so this red from Cahors is a perfect pairing.
Grape Expectations by Caro Feely
Caro Feely and her husband were wine novices. Moving from Dublin to France to develop a wine estate in Saussignac near Bergerac in south west France was a big decision. Financial worries, red tape and family issues all posed problems. And the desire to make wine organically and live a sustainable life added to the hardship. Feely and her family have been resourceful in finding ways to overcome these issues and develop a sustainable business. She has gone on to write two more books about a life that veers from idyllic to tragic, visiting all points in between.
What to drink: Like the wines Caro Feely produces, this Bergerac red from just along the road also relies on organic methods.
Wine and War by Don & Katie Kladstrup
This is an engrossing tale of a little know aspect of the war that had big implications for France. The German occupation had a harrowing impact on the lives of winemakers. Most had little choice but to comply with the demands of Hitler’s army. If they refused, they could be sent to prison camps, vineyards would be occupied, and cellars would be plundered. The book focuses on Bordeaux, Burgundy and Alsace, where young men from winemaking families ended up fighting for the Germans. The book tells how winemakers defended their property, misled the enemy and even stole back their own wine by raiding trains.
What to drink: Life was particularly tough for the winemakers from Alsace, so a wine from that region will help celebrate their bravery.
A Good Year by Peter Mayle
The only fiction book on our list, this is an easy-to-read, entertaining tale with a vineyard in Provence as its centrepiece. It’s an example of Mayle at his best, creating images of an idyllic life in France and analysing the quirks of the locals. And, of course, there’s the wine. Max Skinner is the main character. He works in a highly paid job in the City of London, but inherits the vineyard. Initially he plans to sell it, but as he gets to know the area, he starts to reconsider. And then there is the mystery of the wine itself.
What to drink: Although the story is about red wine, Provence is best known for rosé, so this is a perfect accompaniment.