The break that comes between Christmas and New Year’s is one of my favorite times of year. Everyone is off work, no one knows what day it is or where they’re supposed to be. People stop setting alarm clocks, they go to movies on Wednesday afternoons, take naps on Thursday afternoons and generally have more time to just “be.”
One of my favorite things is cozying up on a couch with a great book. And if there is wine involved in the story, so much the better! I recently received Kristin Harmel’s newest book called “The Winemaker’s Wife” for review and I love it! Full confession, I’m not finished with it yet, but I’ll give you the highlights.
It takes place in 1940s France – specifically Reims – the heart of the Champagne region. Of course, World War II is happening and the Germans have horned in on the region, requisitioning thousands of bottles of Champagne for the troops and the German HQ back in Berlin. As multiple stories unfold at Maison Chauveau, one of the region’s most respected Champagne houses (fictional) and in Reims, readers get a feel for how the locals not only coped with the German occupation, but coordinated resistance efforts – all while continuing to grow grapes and make Champagne.
And then, there is a whole other story unfolding in present day Paris and Reims. Pay attention as you read and the connection becomes clear. And I must say, after having traveled to Reims just a year ago – and visited Piper Heidsieck, among other Champagne houses, it makes the book even more fun to read, because I recognize landmarks and can visualize different parts of the story.
Harmel is an excellent writer and her character and plot development is really excellent. (One of the characters is so maddeningly naive, I just want to pull her out of the book and choke her!) After I finish this one, I’m going to seek out some of her earlier books.
If you like historical fiction, if you like France, if you like Champagne – you will love this book. It may also inspire you to pop a bottle!
And here are a few other books I’ve really loved that feature great stories and characters, set amid vineyards and wineries:
- “The Lost Vintage” by Anne Mah, the story of a woman who returns to her family’s winery in Burgundy as she studies for her Master of Wine exam – and while there, discovers family secrets that go back to World War II.
- “Shadows in the Vineyard” by Maximillian Potter; based on the true story of a criminal who tried to hold hostage the vineyards of Domaine Romanée Conti in Burgundy in 2010.
- “The Nightingale” by Kristen Hannah – another WWII saga, set in France, with the stories of two sisters – one who stays and deals with the occupation and the other who joins the Resistance to fight for France
Enjoy the holiday break and here’s to great books and great wine – always a happy pairing!