Book Review: Tasting Notes, by Anne Burchett
I once attended a wine dinner in Angers about which I think I have only two memories. The first was the starter, which was a carpaccio of scallops served with microscopic mushrooms. The second was that one of the other guests was a certain Anne Burchett. Looking through the pages of her excellent debut novel, Tasting Notes, despite sharing a name with the main character I am happy (or am I perhaps just a little disappointed?) to say neither I nor the raw scallops seem to make an appearance in the pages. I am not sure all the world’s wine buyers, producers and critics should feel so comfortable though.
Tasting Notes is the story of Chris, and her (intriguingly eventful) life after following her father into the wine trade. It is set the real wine world, of cutting deals, blending and buying for supermarkets, the nitty gritty of the trade, not the more romantic notion of the life of a wine buyer. There are no first growths on the verandah, no gentle walks through lush green vineyards and no hazy sunsets here. It is filled with frighteningly accurate characters, thoroughly believable scenarios and an unfolding of events so credible it seems clear that in writing it Anne has dipped into her many years of experience in the wine trade.
Fictional characters wheel and deal with ruthless efficiency in Anne’s world, led by Chris and I am sure I have met one or two of these characters myself over the years. The story moves along at a pace to match one of Chris’s hire cars when she is late for a meeting, with plenty of gritty wine trade politics, division and dissension along the way, giving it a real sense of authenticity. You don’t need to be a wine trade insider to read it though (it just adds another dimension if you are), as I think the unfolding of the story will keep any reader hooked. I picked it up on a Saturday morning and I simply couldn’t put it down all day.
In wine there are few certainties, but there is one that holds true, and that is there is always another vintage on the way. I hope the same is true of this book, and that there is a sequel in the pipeline. Otherwise I am going to find myself wondering what happens next to Chris and the cast of Tasting Notes.
Tasting Notes is available on Amazon.