If you didn’t read — or like me, don’t remember that much — about how the Great DRC Poison Extortion case played out, do not Google it before reading “Shadows in the Vineyard.”
Instead, immerse yourself in Max Potter’s account of this saga, which, like many (non-DRC) red Burgundy wines, is layered and promising but at times a bit thin.
Potter’s book expands on a lengthy article he wrote for Vanity Fair, adding historical chronicles from several eras with ties to the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti (left), the victims of a nefarious plot (are any plots non-nefarious?) that threatened to poison the world’s most valuable vines. Potter takes his time making the connections, wrapping these sidebars around the more compelling contemporary account.
Burghounds will lap up all of it, and other cork dorks should as well, but casual wine folks might find the reverence for this domaine and its region a bit much, especially the constant references to DRC scion Aubert de Villaine as “the Grand Monsieur.”
Still, de Villaine’s past, the focus of one of the sidebars, makes for fascinating reading, as do the 18th-century machinations of the Prince of Conti. Ditto the winery’s more recent soap-opera relations with the house of LeRoy, shareholders in the domaine.
Along the way, Potter deftly unspools the nature of the crime and the investigation of it, and keeps us guessing as to who’s involved. That is, if we don’t already know.
In the end, it’s a great read for wine lovers and a decent enough one for mystery and history fanatics.