Top positive review
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Stands out from the crowd
on 28 September 2004
"One woman and the creation of a vineyard". Oh no, not another book about Brits moving to France to live their dream! But this one really does stand out from the crowd -- unlike the mediocre Virgile's Vineyard, this book is definitely worth reading.
Curiously, I remember seeing Patricia Atkinson in a programme on Channel 4 in about 1993 -- one of the first programmes of that type. She and her husband had moved to Bergerac to live in a beautiful old house and grow vines. But within months the husband contracted a debilitating illness and returned to the UK, leaving Patricia on her own, struggling to cultivate four hectares of vines with no knowledge of French, wine, or how to drive a tractor. She survived, and funnily enough she reappeared on a programme on French television a few months back -- now a respected winemaker who regularly wins prizes and gets her wines into the Guide Hachette.
Not only does she make good wine, she turns out to write quite well too -- recording her fears and insecurities as she struggles along on her own. The winemaking idea had been entirely her husband's, but she is obviously someone who believes that if she has to do something she will do it well, and she discovers talents that might never have been revealed otherwise -- not only learning the numerous skills required to grow grapes and make wine, but developing the physical strength needed to drive tractors, shovel grape debris, prune vines, and heave pipes, pumps and barrels about in the winery. And as if that weren't enough, she turns out to have a remarkably well-developed palate, to the extent that after a few years she is invited to join the official tasting committee for Bergerac AOC wines.
She relates all this with a pleasing humility, and it's clear how her courage, determination and willingness to learn endeared her to her neighbours, who rallied round to help her. By the end of the book she has truly become an integral part of the small community of Gageac. Bravo to her, and eat your heart out, Peter Mayle!