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Shadows in the Vineyard: The True Story of the Plot to Poison the World's…

by Maximillian Potter

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8420233,882 (3.04)24
"When Maximilian Potter went to Burgundy to report for Vanity Fair on a crime that could have destroyed the Domaine de la Romanée Conti-the tiny, storied vineyard that produces the most expensive, exquisite wines in the world-he soon found a story that was much larger, and more thrilling, than he had originally imagined. In January 2010, Aubert de Villaine, the famed proprietor of the DRC, received an anonymous note threatening the destruction of his priceless vines by poison-a crime that in the world of high-end wine is akin to murder-unless he paid a one million euro ransom. Villaine believed it to be a sick joke, but that proved a fatal miscalculation; the crime was committed and shocked this fabled region of France. The sinister story that Potter uncovered would lead to a sting operation by top Paris detectives, the primary suspect's suicide, and a dramatic trial. This botanical crime threatened to destroy the fiercely traditional culture surrounding the world's greatest wine. Like Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, SHADOW IN THE VINEYARD takes us deep into a captivating world full of fascinating characters, small town French politics, an unforgettable narrative, and a local culture defined by the twinned veins of excess and vitality and the deep reverent attention to the land that run through it"--… (more)
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» See also 24 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 20 (next | show all)
I was so impressed with the extensive research and historical information provided in this very detailed account of a bizarre crime to extort money from the world’s most eminent winery in the world, the Domaine de Romanée-Conti. I really enjoyed the historical depiction of the French Court and how Prince Conti navigated his relationship with the king, as well as his adversary and the king’s mistress, Madame Pompadour. In fact, I later read that Prince Conti’s disdain for Madame Pompadour was so great, that when Madame Pompadour cast her eyes toward acquiring the coveted wine from La Romanée, Prince Conti immediately paid an enormous sum for the winery estate and added his name to it, thereafter being called Romanée-Conti. Subsequently, I was also intrigued by the historical transcendence of the winery and how family members came to become keepers of the estate through the generations.
In regard to the extortion and crime, I thought that the author provided extensive information as to how the crime unfolded, and he described the unfortunate background of its key players.
Mostly in this non-fiction work, the author was able to deftly convey the family’s great respect for the terrior of the vineyards, and how this exalted wine is like a divine gift. When the author was given a taste of 2008 La Tâche, his first Burgundy, he described it as ‘like divine, liquefied Pop Rocks that make me feel light headed—the kind of happiness that I felt after I first kissed my wife.’ Such a wine that exuded such perfection was not to be forgotten or taken lightly. ( )
  haymaai | Jun 26, 2019 |
This book did not work, it is a fleshed out version of the Vanity Fair article. The book comes across as disjointed and full of filler, which is not really relevant to the story at hand. And too much sappy Le Grand Monsieur, les enfants etc. Not impressed and a disservice to the DRC. ( )
  APopova | Jan 2, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I had great hopes for Shadows in the Vineyard. The announced plot theme sounded interesting and in a setting I know very little about. This was an expansion of a magazine article and I think would have been better unexpanded. The additional material does tell us a lot about the history and culture of French winemaking, but most of it does not add to the actual story and never is tied together in a meaningful way. ( )
1 vote Helenoel | Dec 21, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Aubert de Villaine should have been looking forward to well deserved twilight years. He had capably served for decades as the Director of Domaine de la Romanee-Conti, one of the oldest and most respected vineyards in Burgundy -- and indeed, the world. And then, in 2010, the Grand Monsieur Villaine received a chilling communication: Pay a 1.3M euro ransom or I will poison your vines. Directions to annihilated vines were provided as proof of both ability and serious intent. Thus starts the real life drama, the details of which will horrify any wine lover.

In addition to following the police in their hunt for the oeno-criminal, we are treated interviews with Villaine and other personages, and provided with background on French wine making and vineyards. This even includes a fanciful, hair-raising trip through Parisian streets with Louis-Francois de Bourbon, cousin and adviser to King Louis XV. I greatly enjoyed the history and the winemaking. The ‘true crime’ aspects took a back seat, lacking the tension and intrigued I’d anticipated. ( )
  michigantrumpet | Dec 3, 2014 |
The subtitle tells you what half of this book is about. In 2010 a few vines were killed and over a thousand others held ransom at two Côte d' Or vineyards in Burgundy, most of them belonging to Romanée-Conti. Maximillian Potter weaves the story of the crime, the investigation, and the punishment with a history of Burgundy, the Côte d' Or, La Romanée-Conti and the personalities involved.

Along the way the history provides one of the better explanations of the reasons behind the classifications of Burgundy, while not getting into the details of the classifications themselves. Without the side-trips into history and politics the book would be very short indeed. As it is, the historic machinations of Madame de Pompadour, and Louis François, Prince of Conti, as well as the more modern business conflicts of Aubert de Villaine and Lalu Leroy pad it out to a reasonable length. They also hint, much like the main story, at stories that could be so much more, but ultimately are not.

Instead of scandal and insurrection, the failed plot resulted in the aristocrats in a distant standoff. Instead of scandal and massive upheaval of the business the former business partners became business rivals with different philosophies. And instead of master criminals an intrigue the police find a sad petty criminal with dreams above his ability who confesses easily and doesn't even make it to trial.

At the end, Potter touches on the illusion of wine, and how easily people are deceived into believing in quality when told a price. Appropriate then that the book hints at many things more elaborate and interesting than they are when telling the story of a failed crime committed against one of the most expensive wines, with a price artificially elevated to the point that most of us will never see a bottle, let alone taste it. ( )
  grizzly.anderson | Nov 10, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 20 (next | show all)
Expanding on an article first published in Vanity Fair, Potter ushers readers into the Burgundy cellars of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, one of France’s most prestigious wineries, and introduces its proprietor, the humble Aubert de Villaine, as he outlines a plot to extort a million Euros from him.
added by mysterymax | editPublishers Weekly (Jun 23, 2014)
 
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For Lori and our enfants, True and Jack
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The sun over Burgundy's seemingly endless expanse of richly green vineyards belonged to late summer.
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The Prince de Conti was the type of renaissance man who continued to engage in picaresque, libidinous adventures, relishing every opportunity to insert himself into affairs of all sorts.
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