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on 28 October 2013
This non-fictional read is about a couple who escaped the rat race, and along with their young children travelled to the wonderful French countryside and bought a vineyard; a rather run down and dilapidated vineyard at that. This in itself was quite eventful for them.

I'm not a wine drinker, but having visited some of the vineyards in France in my school years, I was keen on reading the couple re-cap their journey, sharing with the readers their triumphs and tribulations.

I thoroughly enjoyed the author talking about the renovations that were being made on the farmhouse, and it made me want to go and help out and get stuck in too. However just when they thought they had solved one problem, another appeared in its place. All the while this was being described, I was picturing this in my mind.

I couldn't believe how stressful it was having your own vineyard. You expect it to be hard work, with the planting, the pruning and the gentle tending of the vines. You expect it to be hard work at harvest time. What I didn't ever really think about was the vast amount of French bureaucracy that is involved. These workers work so hard, only to be knocked down at each hurdle by some form that needs filling or something else that needs doing. Even filling in a form isn't straightforward. When you see the hoops they have to jump through, it makes you wonder how French wine is not far more expensive.

What delighted me was the friendliness, kindness and helpfulness shown to them by the locals and other wine growers, even their competitors.

I learnt a lot from this book about the wine making process, and what to look out for in different wines. I loved how all aspects of their life was shared with us. I am full of admiration for them and I don't know if I could give up a secure well paid job to go to another country and work all the hours under the sun. I really liked the author, her family and friends and sincerely hope that all they are doing to live their dream works out well for them.

** At the end of the book, the author directs you to her website about the vineyard. Read the book first and then visit the website to see if its how you pictured it, whilst reading the book **

I was given this book by the promotion company in exchange for my honest review.
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on 6 August 2012
The author irritates me. Her self pitty throughout the book is almost unbearable. I mean if you move to France (without speaking french), with two small children (1 and 3 years old) to run a vineyard (without any knowledge of viticulture, farming or how to operate heavy machinery) and at the same time are refurbishing a ruin of a house (without knowing what's up and down on a screwdriver) you asked for it! Don't feel sorry for yourself the whole time! Don't feel sorry that your relationship with your husband and children changes! What did you expect? Furthermore the book is very poorly written and the text goes into extreme detail. Don't buy it. Don't read it.
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on 20 November 2014
I bought this book to learn something about grape growing and learned nothing. For somebody who gives talks in wine production it was disjointed and uniformative. She is described as a disorganised and messy person in her book always in a 'corridor of crisis'. People like that think haphazardly in my experience and the emotional aspects take over from clear and logical communication particularly on technical matters. This is fine if you just want a dramatic account of a person that has deliberately put herself in a stressful situation and then complains about it all the time. She doesn't even tell us the pruning system her grapes are trained to which is fundamental information for a book on grape growing.

She probably has an energetic and bubbly personality whose enthusiasm for wine production has seen her through some difficult negotiating situations but imparting information clearly is not her forte. Basically the writing of the book was just an elaborate marketting ploy which she is good at and which will no doubt work on emotional sympathisers who feel sorry for her but I could have done without all the anxiety and stress which makes up most of the book. If you want a comfortable read then don't bother, it's just disjointed anxiety ridden meandering. Perhaps if she had written it in diary form or used a monthly or seasonal format it might have followed a logic that we could follow rather than try to make sense of a disjointed 'corridor of stress' all the time. We might then have discovered what happened to some of her ideas and projects that disappeared from the story like her mystery building or how she managed to afford to do up half the house to let out when she was broke etc. What she is after is your sympathy and the last chapter that plugs her wines is cringworthy and (between the lines) is equivalent to a begging letter. I won't be bothering with the follow up which is probably just further marketting and emotional hand wringing.

For somebody scared rigid by the sight of a mouse to put themselves in a situation where they have to inspect vats and barrels of wine kept for months and years in outbuildings says it all really (shakes head).
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on 25 March 2015
As something of an addict of 'Brits settling in France' sagas, I thought this would be right up my street. A few chapters in, I really regret paying for this book, and I can think of many better things to do than finish it.
I've read about some other implausible ventures by ex-pats, but this beats them all! It's one thing attempting to make wine with no proper training, and another thing to do it in a place where you don't know the language... and I really can't imagine why people with master's degrees in finance and economics, but no experience of farming or even country life, could take such a risk. I suspect that the author is deliberately over-exaggerating the problems in an attempt to attract interest and sympathy.
These suspicions are enhanced by the fact that in some ways the story just doesn't hold up. When they move to their filthy hovel their children are supposedly aged 2 and a few months. The new baby is put to sleep in a house full of mice, which apparently eat her milk-stained clothes, while her mother is petrified of mice herself. This runs counter to any kind of maternal instinct I've ever heard of - I just don't think a mother would do this to her child unless there was really no other solution. As for two-year-old Sophia, she just doesn't sound like a two-year-old to me. She is described as 'toddling around', but she looks at a map of her new home with her mother. After only TWO days in France, this two-year-old is immediately packed off to school... where she is happy to recognize her name above a peg. And after four days, she declares 'I'm not going to cry today'. Sorry, is this a toddler or some kind of precocious genius?
Life's too short for me to continue with this...and there is no need to pay to read marketing tracts!
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on 9 January 2013
If I said `Chateau Haut Garrigue', I bet the first thing that comes to mind is French wine? How often have we all sat down of an evening on holiday, looking out over the beautiful French countryside, drinking a bottle of fruity, spicy French wine and wondered how lovely it would be to live in France, have a view like this everyday and maybe make our own wine? Grape Expectations is the book that tells the story of Caro, Sean and their two young daughters who do just that.

Caro writes honestly about their experiences moving from Ireland to the Bergerac region of France to run an organic vineyard, and her passion and enthusiasm shine through. Living and making a living in France is no holiday and running an organic vineyard is about as far removed from a holiday as you can get. Nothing can quite prepare you for the bureaucracy of setting up a business in France (been there done that), so hats off to the Feely's for attempting it with the added regulations involved in organic wine production. There were times when their future seemed uncertain, but what came across in the book is that they always gave it a bloody good go. Following your dreams can sometimes feel like a nightmare and there are always dark moments. For Sean and Caro these included a couple of nasty accidents that happened to Sean, you could say lots of blood, sweat and tears go into every bottle! The fact that they have been accepted into the local community and more importantly by the local vignerons, many of whose families have been making wine for generations, is a testament to their hard work and passion for organic wine making.

I'm in awe she found the time to write the book and feel very privileged to have been let into their life in France. Time must have been so pressured with two very young daughters to settle into a new life, the day to day running of the vineyard and developing the wine tourism side of the business. She seems to be good at multi tasking as they have just won the prestigious `Best of Wine Tourism 2013' Gold award for sustainable tourism. Caro's writing style is excellent and her descriptions of the wine flavours brought the words to life so I'm sure the vineyard courses she runs will be delivered in a very engaging way.

This book is published by Summersdale who sent me a copy to review.
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on 3 February 2015
Sumptuous as a glass of richly robed Shiraz. Nothing better than reading about people who have risked all to live their dream and experience the things in life that really matter - fresh air, good food and wine and a labour of love. As a wine lover it is a fascinating and realistic delve into the world of small scale wine production, where the margins are so tight and so much depends on factors outside one's control. Worth a thought when we peruse the shelves of our favourite wine merchants...
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on 28 August 2012
I bought this book after we'd spent a really enjoyable day at the Feely's vineyard doing their French Wine Adventures course. Caro's talks and explanations about French wine appreciation were really eloquent and interesting, their wines (and food!) tastings were delicious and their vineyards, with beautiful views, are lovely to walk through. I thought the book would be an interesting way to back up a lot of what we'd learnt that day, as well as to hear about their personal journey getting there...but I had no idea quite how hard it had been!

I started reading it that night and finished a couple of days later, which I would definitely consider a page-tuner! Having just met them, I was very moved by what Caro and Sean went through to get the vineyard to the very professional place it is now -as she states in the book it brought a whole new meaning to the phrase 'blood, sweat and tears'! I had never really thought beforehand about how much work goes into making a good bottle of wine, particularly an organic/ bio dynamic one under the incredibly strict rules of the French AOC system. I'm in awe at, not only what they have both achieved at the vineyard, but the amount of energy they must have to do all that they do there, whilst bringing up two small children and, in a relatively short period of time, do up the dilapidated house, build a new tasting/ teaching room, a new gite, a potager and also for Caro to write and run the courses and walks, be on wine committees AND write such a good book at the same time!

Grape Expectations is a well-written and enjoyable read, particularly if you are interested in wine and France - and If you happen to be thinking of moving to France to own a vineyard, you should definitely read this first!
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on 7 June 2013
I was browsing for this genre of book before a holiday and was drawn to Caro's book from the reviews. Having bought a house in S.W France I googled Chateau Haut Garrigue to see if it was anywhere near our location. I was delighted to discover it is a 10 minute drive away ! I bought the book, and took it away with me. I thoroughly recommend Caro and Shauns story ! I personally enjoyed reading about places I knew of in the area and It taught me an awful lot about wine making. Having gone through buying a property in France I have to say the tales of bureaucracy did not shock me in the least ! The struggle to fulfil their dream became mine every time I turned the page and I was sad to finish the last one.

now to the important bit !

the region has some beautiful and interesting places to visit and makes a perfect holiday destination. I for one am eagerly booked onto Caro's wine tour and lunch - a snip at the price. I look forward to seeing Shauns injuries for myself (!) I really cant wait to taste their wines, and most importantly support two people who have shown so much integrity and courage. www.terroirfeely.com
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on 1 August 2016
Having thrown this book in with a pile to read on holiday it was only by chance that I found myself in the same region of where the book is about. Thus I was able tell relate to the terrain about which the book describes - a beautiful but challenging landscape, the yields from the vineyards do not come without tears and love, hard work and good luck. Caro writes in a way that had me sitting and reading the first 100 pages without a break - I was captured! The need to find out if they survived meant a sneaky visit to the Internet to look them up and great relief when I saw that they are surviving and thriving and that there is a sequel for me to get next! I am not off to try to find how to buy their wine to support them and will look for "bio" signs on wine bottles from now on. Thank you Caro and family for sharing your experience and life lessons.
Whether on holiday, at home in the rain or just thinking about the possibility chucking in your current job to go find a vineyard, don't do it without reading this first. The honest, open and frank account is imply spellbinding. Just get it ordered and read it....
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on 26 April 2014
I read a great deal of " We moved to France" books which is why I bought Caro's book. Our plan is to do something similar, more along the lines of self-sufficiency, and I have found Grape expectations to be a most aspirational and inspirational read that has kept me going through the wet gloomy winters in the UK and the mountains of marking I have as a teacher.. even at the 2nd reading! It is not written with rose coloured specs like some are, but is written with honesty and passion; you can feel the pain and the joy, not to mention the exhaustion of the vendage and the sheer exhilaration of producing something wonderful in beautiful surroundings.
Rather than put me off our plan it has fired my enthusiasm even more and hope to call in to buy a bottle (or few) this summer when we go on our first house/farm hunting foray in the south-west. (She was also very helpful when I emailed asking for advice about where to stay in the area!)
I'm looking forward to the next book! And tasting the produce!
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