Jena Henry's Reviews > The Vineyards of Champagne

The Vineyards of Champagne by Juliet Blackwell
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it was amazing

This thoughtful and compelling book is both a toast to champagne- the drink and the region in France as well as a salute to the human spirit. Champagne- so bubbly, light on the tongue, effervescent, it’s the nectar of celebrations, a beverage of joy. But this is not a giddy story. The Vineyards of Champagne is a lyrical and lovely look at the past and present, its sadness and challenges.

When we meet Rosalyn, sitting in first class on her way to a small village in the Champagne region of France, she is not at all a poster girl for champagne, surprising since she is a wine sales rep. She lives in the shadows and suffers by crouching in front of her medicine cabinet, ever since Dash, the vibrant love of her life died.

On the plane, she is seated by a human force of nature, Emma from Australia, a wealthy wine investor. Emma is not married, she is not a widow, or “veuve” but she is in the same mold as the famous Madame Clicquot, the first woman to head a champagne house. The Veuve Clicquot is well-described in this book, so I looked her up. “In an era when women were excluded from the business world, she dared to assume the head of the company, a role she undertook with passion and determination. Madame Clicquot’s character might be summarized with two words: audacious and intelligent.” Audacious and intelligent also describes Emma.

Once in France Emma and Rosalyn meet and stay with the family of a small champagne house and grow quite close to Blondine, a wonderful character. The three of them team up because of their champagne connection, but they grow close as they investigate a century-old mystery. Emma is in possession of some letters that her great-aunt wrote to a young French soldier serving in the trenches during World War 1. Their epistolary relationship is a highlight of the book. What ever happened to the soldier, and his lover?

This is not a thrilling or suspenseful story; rather, it echoes the strength and timelessness of the Champagne region. The soil and its caves can nourish as well as save. Growers and producers of champagne face hard constant toil and must be as strong as the land that creates the grapes. The characters in this story are connected because they all face trials of the spirit.

I commend the author for creating a readable story that is filled with such entertaining depth . Juliet Blackwell is able to teach us about grapes and champagne, from Napa Valley to France in an appealing way. She is quite adept at creating full characters that are so real and authentic. Emma seems to Australian. The French characters are so French in their words, thoughts and actions. This is one of the saddest depictions of World War I have read.

I have not traveled that much in Europe, but as a college student, I did make it to Reims. I remember seeing the beautiful Cathedral, but nothing else. Oh, to have known more about the history of the place, the people living in the wine caves and cellars during the War! Thanks to this book, I now feel connected to the region.

The next time you drink Champagne, think of the stories behind it. Maison Veuve Clicquot has produced luxury champagnes sine 1772. It proclaims on its website, “Let Life Surprise you”. I highly recommend this book. Thanks to NetGalley and Berkley Publishing Group for an advanced digital review copy. This is my honest review.

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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
September 12, 2019 – Shelved

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