Friday, December 13, 2019

Relaxing with a Sparkling Wine and #TheWinemakersWife

When my friend Cam of Culinary Adventures with Camilla asked members of our French Winophiles group if they would like to join her in reading a novel set in Champagne, France during the occupation by Germany I jumped at the chance.

I am always game for a new book to read especially Historical Fiction which is my genre of choice.  Then when I learned that the author was Kristin Harmel, I was giddy with joy.
One of my favorite novels, The Nightingale by Kirsten Hannah, is also set in France during the German occupation.  You can read my review of it from 2017 in this post.

I was a little concerned that this novel couldn't possibly be as good as The Nightingale but once I got into this novel all of those concerns flew right out the window.

This story is one of hope, despair, love, anger, pity and betrayal.  It is the story of people and how each of us copes with adversity in our own way.  

Being born and raised in the USA, I tend to forget that we were not the sole country involved in the fight against Hitler and his regime.  The citizens of France, who were sold out by their Government, handled it in all different ways.  

Some banned with the Germans, openly and proudly, whether they agreed with them or not so that they were still able to enjoy all the privileges that came with that alliance.  Some turned a blind eye to the plight of their fellow countrymen in an effort to keep themselves safe and under the radar.  Some buried their heads and denied that the things occurring were as bad as they were trying to remain blissful in their ignorance.  And some, like the protagonists in this novel, became part of the resistance and did whatever they could to save others and fight the evil they saw happening.

Many winemaker's during this time helped the resistance in their efforts.  Some more than others.  Having labyrinths of caves where the wines were stored were perfect hiding places for munitions, refugees, meetings and sabotage.

The winemakers suffered, for sure, but not as badly as some, for the Germans wanted them to still be able to make wines of which they availed themselves at will.  The winemakers had hidden rooms where they kept some of their best wines and these rooms were often used for the resistance movement.

The novel had many more secrets than just rooms.  There were secret love affairs. Secret longings and desires.  Family secrets that were kept for years and years.  Secrets about life and secrets about death.  Secret identities and secret lives.

For the winemakers, their wines are like children.  They are so proud and protective of them, it was very hard for them to have their wines not given the respect they deserved.  While they were left to run the vineyards they had very little help left as all able bodied men were requisitioned or, if they were Jewish, taken to concentration camps.

The wine I opened to enjoy while reading this novel was not Champagne.  It was not even from France.  But it was a sparkling wine and I was inspired to open and pour it when I read the following chapter:

"Her steps echoed as she moved deeper into the cool, chalky caves.  There were the 1939's and the 1940's, still aging on the lees, the first two vintages since war had been declared.  There were gaps where the older wines---the thirty-sixes, the blanc de blanc Theo had experimented with in 1938---should have been, but they'd been hidden or requisitioned by the Germans long ago."

As I read this paragraph I remembers that I had been given a bottle of Blanc de Blanc as a gift.  I went to the wine refrigerator and sure enough, there it was.  This bottle was made here in the USA in Monterrey County in California by Francis Coppola winery.  It is named after his daughter.

It was crisp and dry and I enjoyed it very much.  Frank joined me in having a glass as we talked about the novel and the horrors of war and dictatorship.   The sins of believing that a certain group of people are less valuable based on the color of their skin, the location of their birth, their ancestry or their religion.

Both of our fathers fought fought to stop the atrocities that were occurring overseas and were very proud that we lived in a country where we were able to step in and help those in such a terrible, horrendous situation.

I think this is a great novel to choose for a book club, it leads to a lot of discussion.  I think we all are horrified at the power Hitler wielded and I, for one, pray each day that our Country never allow someone in government to wield that much power over us.

I think Cam is also choosing this novel as our January read for #LitHappens, an online book club where we read and discuss a new book each month.  I am anxious to see what the other's think of the novel and to discuss it with them.

I'm also looking forward to see what the other #Winophiles think.  We have been having a little bit of discussion but I am excited to read their posts and reviews as they write them.  The following blogs will be featuring a review of this novel:  Always RavenousCrushed Grape Chronicles, Culinary Adventures with Camilla Keep The PeasL’Occasion, My Full Wine Glass, Side Hustle WinoSomm'sTable, What's in That Bottle and Wine Predator.  You can find their reviews on their websites as they write them or by following #TheWinemakersWife on social media.

I am also linking this review over at FoodiesRead where lovers of food and books share what they're reading right now.

Next up on my reading list is Godforsaken Grapes; A slightly tipsy journey through the world of strange, obscure and underappreciated wine.  What are you reading right now?


  1. Thanks for joining me. What a great book...and I love that sparkling wine, too!! Cheers.

  2. This sounds like a great novel. I recently read We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter. It was heart wrenching. I enjoy reading good historical fiction so I'm adding this recommendation to my list. Thanks, Wendy.


I enjoy getting comments and feedback from my audience. Please let me know what you think, keeping in mind that we are all entitled to our own beliefs and opinions. I am happy to hear yours as long as they are stated nicely.