Book Review: Shadows in the Vineyard

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Shadows in the Vineyard: The True Story of the Plot to Poison the World's Greatest WineShadows in the Vineyard: The True Story of the Plot to Poison the World’s Greatest Wine by Maximillian Potter
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

At the surface Shadows in the Vineyard is a true come story of an extortion plot against the world’s greatest vineyard, a tiny patch of land in Burgundy, France, which grows the universally acclaimed best wine in the world. But it’s also the story of the family that grows the wine, the generations that have owned and run the vineyard, treating the vines like their own children, back to when they bought it after the French Revolution. It’s also the story of the man, the Prince de Conti, from whom the vineyard gets its name, Romanee Conti. He was a close confidant of King Louis XV, an enemy of the king’s mistress Madame de Pompadour, and ultimately a traitor to the king in favor of the oppressed people of France.

We also get the story of wine in France, how deeply rooted in culture and society wine is. We learn how the monks first came to the great valleys, carefully examining the land and micro-climates in order to grow the very finest grapes, not making wines themselves, but servants of the Divine Will who produced the wine so that it could become the Blood of Christ. We learn how wine is classified and delineated, how French wine was almost wiped from the earth through a blight brought from America and then saved by vines from America.

Ultimately, it’s also the story of a broken man and his son who plot to steal from the great son of a great man and in the process threaten to rob France and the whole world of the great patrimony of the great wines of Burgundy.

If you’re a wine lover, you’ll want to read this, but even if all you know about wine is that comes in bottles, it’s still a great education about a topic nearly as old as bread and grapes and so very vital to civilization. And it’s a great story about some very interesting people.

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Domenico Bettinelli, Jr., is a father of five and husband, a Roman Catholic, born in Boston, educated at Franciscan University of Steubenville, who has worked in Catholic media--print, broadcast, and online--since the mid-90s. Find out all about Dom on his About Me page. He is also the CEO of the StarQuest Production Network at sqpn.com. All opinions on this site are solely those of Domenico Bettinelli and do not reflect the opinions of anyone else. See the disclaimer for further details.