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FAMILIES OF THE VINE by Michael S. Sanders

FAMILIES OF THE VINE

Seasons Among the Winemakers of Southwest France

By Michael S. Sanders

Pub Date: April 12th, 2005
ISBN: 0-06-055964-0
Publisher: HarperCollins

With great respect and admiration, Sanders (From Here, You Can't See Paris, 2002, etc.) pores over the convivial and welcoming wines of southern France.

As he chronicles a year among three of the region’s producers, Sanders depicts French wine shorn of pretense, as a part of everyday life more than a commodity. The text focuses on vin de Cahors, a local petit vin grown in the valleys and hills of the Lot River. Sanders describes the elegance and specific geology of this ancient wine-producing region, which can trace its heritage back 2,000 years. He concentrates on three growers, delineating their various approaches and the little finesses they bring to their work. Winemaking here is in touch with its roots: coopers continue to make the barrels; no filtration subtracts from the wine’s character; butterflies are looked upon warily as harbingers of blight. The narrative voice is as companionable as the subject—and bell clear, which readers might not be after a few glasses of dark, meaty Cahors wine, characterized by the author as an ordinary, unthreatening, but very tasteful drink. Recounting the education of a sommelier becomes the reader’s education too. (How to get the right bottle for the meal? Ask!) Sanders salutes the local makers’ iconoclasm. On the one hand, they are happy that vin de Cahors has been elevated to the status of an appellation controlée (certification of a certain level of quality), yet they also happily plant grapes outside the prescribed varietals, devoting an acre to cabernet franc or sauvignon blanc. As one grower said, “We make the white and the rosé for our own amusement, because it makes a change, a little something different.”

A refreshing portrait of wine not as an elite mystery, but as a product wrung from the earth by honest labor.