A story of adventure, espionage, and second chances all tangled up in the whereabouts of one lost bottle of wine.
Bruno Tannenbaum’s career as a food writer is on a swift decline. Years earlier, he had experienced a respectable level of success from his collection of essays, Twenty Recipes for Love, which combined musings on culinary delights with tips on how to use food to enhance relationships. But through a series of personal failures, much of the goodwill he earned from his fame has disappeared. Then, following a day of embarrassing indulgence, he makes a scene at a local restaurant, and his outrageous behavior causes him to lose his job as a columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times. He's already living with his mother, separated from his wife and two daughters, so this firing hits him especially hard. Feeling untethered, he approaches his friend Aleksei for a loan but is instead offered a job cataloging the contents of a wine locker, obtained as payment from one of Aleksei’s former clients. It's in this locker that Bruno’s new adventure begins. After being attacked and waking to find the locker ransacked, he discovers the cork of a bottle of wine that shouldn’t exist. This vintage, originating in France in 1943 and made by Clement Trevallier, was thought to have been lost to the Nazi occupation, with no record of production for that year. The existence of this cork—and the fact that someone was willing to attack him for it—suggests otherwise. Bruno sets off on a journey that takes him around the world in hopes of unraveling the mysteries behind this wine. While the descriptions of food and wine in the novel are impeccable, the passages involving Bruno’s relationships falter. Much of the plot is over-the-top, and the writing lacks the authority it would need to remain plausible.
An uneven debut novel by a talented food writer.