Last year when I hooked up with Naked Wines, one of the first wines I tasted came from Virgile Joly, a Merlot produced and the Languedoc Region of France. It was a marvelous fun wine, as the winemaker intended, for everyday drinking. The more I aerated it, or left some in the bottle for a day or two the more the character of the wine changed. As time passed, I developed an on-line relationship with Virgile and we e-talked about a lot of wine related things and his organic philosophy. this ideas permeated his entire wine making process beginning with the wintering of the vines, pruning disease control, processing , fermentation and the list goes on.
Earlier this month I got a package in the mail that I didn’t expect. You can imagine my surprise when I open it and there lay a copy of book entitled Virgile’s Vineyard, a Year in Languedoc Wine Country, by Patrick Moon. Virgile had inscribed it to me because I was his first Naked Wine Archangel (a sponsor or promoter). I was both honored and thrilled as I leafed through this fun looking book. To digress, I had read both Peter Mayle’s books “A Year in Provence” and “Toujours Provence” and had enjoyed them immensely, a quick look at the back cover of the book and I knew it would be a similar kind of tale. Well, I jumped right in and immediately noted the similarity between Mayle’s story telling style and Peter Moon’s, I couldn’t wait to begin reading. I must confess that the fact that the story followed a year of his apprenticeship in wine making by Virgile Joly would by itself keep my attention.
The Story begins with Peter moving into a house in the Languedoc Wine Country left to him by his uncle. The house and acreage were in horrible disrepair leaving him with a years worth of work to bring it back to its true character. This of course brings back immediately the opening to “A Year In Provence” but this is pretty much where the similarity ends. The story while focused on the author’s year serving as Virgile’s volunteer laborer so he could learn about wine making, nicely intertwines his adventures with a whole cast of characters, that bring local color and humor to the story. As the story takes a whole year, it moves back and forth between his time with Virgile and his exploration of the local culture, people, wines and traditions of the region. While others pop in and out of the story, Manu, his neighbor who never met a wine (especially free ones) he didn’t like and was more than happy to filch almost anything from his gullible new neighbor, a newly divorced historian who owns the local Chateau and has designs on the authors affections (clearly a one way street) and finally Virgile who develops a genuine friendship for Peter Moon and is willing to share his enological knowledge with the author, compose that main foils who compete for his time as the story unfolds.
Aside from the fun and humorous escapades that the story develops, the book presents very nice little history of the region and its grapes, the life year around, in the Mediterranean hills with its winds, rain and blistering summer heat. That said the book’s best part came in the captivating lessons on vine tending and wine making as presented through the eyes and organic philosophy of Virgile Joly a young adventurous grower and winemaker. This story really rang true for me as I already possessed a smattering of it from my on-line time with Virgile as he tutored me on how he makes wine and how he sees the traditions and processes playing out in the character of his wines.
All in all, “Virgile’s Vineyard …” was fun, made me laugh, and gave me pause as I learned Virgile’s methods, and philosophy right along with the author. I had more than a few “Ah-ha” moments along the way. In addition to all this, it made me want to buy a plane ticket and go visit Virgile in his native environment and spend time tripping around the region with Manu tasting the local wines, seeing, experiencing, and enjoying the local history and traditions.
If any of my blog readers do read the book, please add you reviews and comments, as I would be very interested in other opinions from those who, know little of Virgile Joly, his ecological philosophy, or his wines.