Saving our Skins: French Vineyard Dreams (and Reality)

Caro Feely, Saving our Skins: Building a Vineyard Dream in France. Summersdale Publishers, 2014.

Caro Feely, Grape Expectations: A Family’s Vineyard Adventure in France. Summersdale Publishers, 2012.

Caro Feely is an economist and a dreamer and so there was bound to be a bit of cognitive dissonance when she and her husband Sean and their two daughters pulled up stakes in Dublin and moved to Saussignac to grow grapes, make wine and live the dream instead of just dreaming it.

The Vines Aren’t the Only Ones that are Stressed!

Cognitive dissonance? Yes, that’s the stress that you feel when you try to believe two contradictory things at the same time and there cannot be two thoughts that are much more in contradiction than the idea of taking over a dilapidated house and run down vineyard and cellar and making great wine and the notion that you will be able to pay the bills and support a family in the process.

The easiest way to make a small fortune in wine is to start with a big one, they say, and the Feely fortune was not all that big to begin with. Stress? Yes, lots of stress.  And two fine books, too.

I’m not quite sure if Feely’s 2012 book Grape Expectations was written as a creative outlet, a cheap form of therapy or to generate an additional revenue stream, but it is a delightful book that I recommend to all my friends. Feely tells her family’s story and the book could be placed on a shelf along with Under the Tuscan Sun or A Year in Provence because of its ability to give all of us a peek at expat daily life in a suitably romantic setting,

More Than Just a Good Story

But while there’s enough romance in Feely’s book to make it attractive to someone looking for an escape, it is the reality of her situation that appeals most to me. Besides telling a good story about her family’s experiences she also teaches us a great deal about the arts and craft of winegrowing and the economics of the wine business, with its peculiar challenges and opportunities.

I enjoyed Grape Expectations enormously, so I couldn’t wait for the sequel, Saving our Skins, which is released this month.  The Feely saga continues in the new book, but with a twist. Having survived their first vintages with their marriage, home and business intact, Caro and Sean take the possibly fatal step of pushing things to a new extreme.  They decide to go biodynamic. Yikes!

Biodynamics brings with it a new set of cognitive dissonant stresses and strains, which is tough on the Feelys who must struggle through them but good news for us, because we get to pleasantly continue our wine-growing and wine business educations.

Both books are highly recommended. Great summer (or anytime) reading.

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This video leans toward the romantic side more than the books do, but it does let you view the Feely’s property. Sean is the fellow with long hair, Caro has short hair and glasses. Look closely for their daughters. Click here to read about their winery and wines.

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2 responses

  1. They stole your original title—but I ordered the book anyway!
    Did I ever send you a copy of A Vineyard Odyssey?

    • I think this is a case of “grape minds” having the same idea (Grape Expectations was the original working title of Wine Wars). Yes — I love A Vineyard Odyssey, which tells the tale of trying to run an organic vineyard in a world of many natural vineyard challenges. I’ve got it on my review list!

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