Summary and book reviews of Shadows in the Vineyard by Maximillian Potter

Shadows in the Vineyard

The True Story of a Plot to Poison the World's Greatest Wine

by Maximillian Potter

Shadows in the Vineyard
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     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jul 2014, 304 pages
    Paperback:
    Jul 2015, 304 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Poornima Apte

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About this Book

Book Summary

Journalist Maximillian Potter uncovers a fascinating plot to destroy the vines of La Romanée-Conti, Burgundy's finest and most expensive wine.

When Maximilian Potter went to Burgundy to report for Vanity Fair on a crime that could have destroyed the Domaine de la Romanée Conti - the tiny, storied vineyard that produces the most expensive, exquisite wines in the world - he soon found a story that was much larger, and more thrilling, than he had originally imagined.

In January 2010, Aubert de Villaine, the famed proprietor of the DRC, received an anonymous note threatening the destruction of his priceless vines by poison - a crime that in the world of high-end wine is akin to murder - unless he paid a one million euro ransom. Villaine believed it to be a sick joke, but that proved a fatal miscalculation; the crime was committed and shocked this fabled region of France. The sinister story that Potter uncovered would lead to a sting operation by top Paris detectives, the primary suspect's suicide, and a dramatic trial. This botanical crime threatened to destroy the fiercely traditional culture surrounding the world's greatest wine.

Like Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Shadows in the Vineyard takes us deep into a captivating world full of fascinating characters, small town French politics, an unforgettable narrative, and a local culture defined by the twinned veins of excess and vitality and the deep reverent attention to the land that run through it.

Excerpt
SHADOWS IN THE VINEYARD: The True Story of the Plot to Poison the World's Greatest Wine

The chamber the man had built for himself was small and dark, filled with a kind of disquieting energy. The very same things, in fact, could be said for his mind.

It was a late fall night in 2009, and inside that small, dark space, he began to stir. A barely audible click, then a light—his headlamp.

He had been lying down, not so much resting as he was waiting for nightfall. Now that it was about 1 a.m., just when he was certain the world around him was asleep, he rose and readied himself.

He was short and squat, with a thick neck and a head like a canned ham. He shuffled about as one tends to do in darkened, cramped quarters. He bumped into things. He was groggy. His breathing heavy. Always, there was wine in his blood.

As the man moved, his tiny spotlight moved with him, darting here and there, illuminating his surroundings in flashes: four walls, a couple of center ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

While the details of the crime itself turn out to be a tad anticlimactic, you soon realize that Shadows is more about the journey than the end result. This is equal parts travelogue as it is detective story, and the descriptions of the quaintest towns in the Côte d’Or, along with the insights into the immensely profitable wine industry, are truly what hold the reader’s attention.   (Reviewed by Poornima Apte).

Full Review Members Only (628 words).

Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. A whodunit with a culprit worthy of a Woody Allen film, Potter's first book is a rich study of a cinematic crime and bona fide page-turner....Even the most devout teetotaler will have a hard time putting this one down.

Author Blurb Benjamin Wallace, author of The Billionaire's Vinegar
Inspired by a daring crime that a lesser writer might reduce to police procedural, Maximillian Potter has opened a portal into a fabled world unknown to outsiders. The story he so compellingly recounts in SHADOWS IN THE VINEYARD breathes, like the hallowed wine at its heart, with life and history and wonder.

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Beyond the Book

Monks and Wine in Burgundy

Example of terroirIn Shadows In the Vineyard, we learn how strong a factor the concept of terroir is in winemaking. "It's the sum of the natural characteristics unique to each parcel or climat of vines: the amount of sunlight and rain an area receives, the pitch and composition of its earth, and, of course, the vines," writes Maximillian Potter. Terroir explains why different plots of land yield different kinds of grapes and therefore, different kinds of wines. Interestingly enough, the idea of terroir was first introduced to Burgundy by monks centuries ago.

The Catholic church gained increasing influence in the Middle Ages and expanded their land-holdings in the Burgundy wine territories by means of generous gifts bequeathed them by royalty. Abbeys and ...

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