Delightfully quirky debut describes one couple’s quest for the palest rosé in all of France.
The author and wife Tanya are British Francophiles, escaping their hectic London life every chance they get for a week across the Channel. They are also great devotees of rosé, that in-between pinkish wine that has long been considered the stepchild of reds and whites. Their loves came together one summer when, while sipping a deliciously pale rosé at a French vineyard, Jamie, Tanya and their traveling buddy Peter found themselves chatting with the vintner, who insisted there was no paler rosé in all of France. It was a dare, of course: Could this trio of wine connoisseurs find a paler sample of their favorite wine? So began a months-long tour through France in search of the mythical rosé. The trip got off to an auspicious start; in Paris, they met a charming and loquacious restaurateur who suggested vineyards they should visit and winemakers they should meet. The search took them to Champagne, the Jura and Bordeaux. They visited quaint markets, small-town dances and, of course, countless vineyards. Ivey plots his story well: The quest, which sometimes seems hopeless, unfolds with just the right soupçon of suspense. The author sought the holy grail of pale rosé, but he was also after knowledge. He wanted to know how wine is made; why most French folks have always sneeringly dismissed rosé; and why, despite its second-class status, it is becoming trendy in certain circles. Of course, the vinous adventures sometimes took on a metaphorical quality, as when an enigmatic stranger in a bar, who turned out to be a shrink, told Ivey that “people on a quest only think they know what they’re searching for.” Tanya thought she was looking for permanent relocation to France. The occasional tension between husband and wife over where they should settle lends a certain gravity to this breezy travel memoir.