A Burgundy Whodunnit

If you've yet to read Maximilian Potter's Shadows in the Vineyard I strongly recommend it as one of the most fascinating wine books of recent memory.

Expanded from an article that appeared in the May 2011 issue of Vanity Fair, Potter's book relays in suspenseful detail the plot to poison — for a million euros ransom — the vines of Domaine de la Romanée Conti.

But more than simply a great crime read, Potter deftly weaves his story with mini-histories of Burgundy and of the Domaine with a cast of characters ranging from the Prince de Conti, whom the Domaine is named after and who was an older, and not especially loyal, cousin to Louis XV, to the Domaine's current head, Aubert de Villaine. 

Though Potter enriches his book with brief biographies of everyone from criminals to cops, as well as the domaine's workers and the families that own it, he can annoy with prose more flowery than a vineyard in springtime, his effusive praise of the quiet Aubert de Villaine, and writing that makes it sound as if he were inside the head of de Villaine as well as the monks who created Burgundy as we know it.

Regardless, the book is more than worthwhile for all kinds of insider information, and despite my quibbles it is a real page-turner for anyone who loves wine, and especially Burgundy.

~ with thanks to DIG customer Chris Ames, who alerted me of the article and loaned me the book.