A post over on Wannabe Wino just brought to my attention the Wine Book Club, which has been run by Good Wine Under $20. Apparently participation has been light and this month is going to be the last. That’s a shame. Coincidentally, during my vacation last week, I finished the book they’re reading this month: A Vineyard in Tuscany by Ferenc Máté. Since I just learned about it last minute, I can’t do a proper book review, but I thought I’d whip off a quick post to participate in this last installment of the book club.
This book is the memoir of an ex-pat author, Ferenc Máté, who lives in Tuscany (with his wife and young son) and decides he wants to buy a little vineyard land adjacent to his property. Things don’t work out as planned with that purchase and it sends him on a quest for a new property where he can fulfill his twin desires of rebuilding a ruin and owning a vineyard.
Máté paints a very inviting picture of life in Tuscany (has anyone written a book that makes Tuscany seem anything less than idyllic?), with its slowed-down lifestyle, charming neighbors, interesting characters and delicious food and wine. What appeals to me about his writing is the sense of community with his neighbors and the various locals who help him with his rebuild and vineyard planting, and the connectedness to the land and the seasons. As these sort of books always do, it makes you question “modern life”, the rat race, suburbia and all that — sparking fantasies of leaving it all behind and moving somewhere where they “get it.”
Of course, following the author’s footsteps would require quite a bankroll. He doesn’t provide a lot of specific dollar amounts (other than the “going rate” of $10K per acre for vineyard land, a price he never actually got, yet it got me thinking…), but the overall cost must have been massive. In addition to the purchase price of this 13th century friary and dozens of acres of vineyard land, he employed masons and carpenters and other workers for almost 2 years straight.
The only other quibble I have with the book is what I’ll call the false-self-deprication. There’s a lot of “oh, I’m this crazy Hungarian who just has to have the original tiles restored – aren’t I a weirdo?” But you can tell he’s totally proud of it. It just got a little old for me after a while. We get it — you did everything the right way, the hard way, the perfect way. You don’t have to pretend it’s some kind of personality flaw.
But overall, I really enjoyed the book. Highlights for me include:
- the visit from the vineyard consultant-type who walks the land and talks about which grapes to plant on which parcels. (He plants Sangiovese, Merlot, Cabernet and Syrah)
- The discussion of all the detailed decisions that have to be made when planting a vineyard (vines per acre, row spacing, trellising, direction of the rows, etc.)
- the anxiety of the final days before harvest, when they’re trying to decide exactly when to pick and avoid late rains
If you like to daydream about having you’re own vineyard, this book will give you plenty of fodder.