Monday, March 24, 2014

Virgile's Vineyard and Arrazat's Aubergines by Patrick Moon


For a France lover who is equally keen on the wine and food of France too, these books from Patrick Moon, focusing on the regional delights of the Languedoc were calling out to me. Before I’d even opened them the titles and front covers had peaked my interest and I couldn’t wait to get stuck in.

French Village Diaries book review Virgile's Vineyard Arrazat's Aubergines Patrick Moon LanguedocIn the first book, Virgile’s Vineyard we join Patrick as he spends a year in the Languedoc at the house he inherited from his uncle. As well as exploring, taming his land and getting to grips with the unique water supply, Patrick sets himself a challenge to discover and understand the wine of the region. With his three self-appointed experts we learn alongside him; the history of the area (from an expat divorced history teacher), the way of the locals (from Manu, his wine drinking neighbour) and the art of Languedoc wine making (from Virgile, a local vigneron).

This book was a pleasure to read and I have to admit to smiling from the very beginning as so many of the great descriptions were spot on. It is not difficult to imagine you are in the Languedoc and learning about the life and wine alongside Patrick, with just enough information and snippets of history to be interesting rather than over bearing.

For a memoir, Patrick unusually keeps himself in the background and it is his three experts who come alive from the pages, especially Manu – the loveable rogue. I couldn’t wait to carry on and read Arrazat’s Aubergines.

French Village Diaries book review Virgile's Vineyard Arrazat's Aubergines Patrick Moon LanguedocIn book two, Arrazat’s Aubergines, Patrick is back in the Languedoc but on a more permanent basis and it is the food that piques his interest this time. Many of the people we met in book one are back, enriching and hindering Patrick’s life, but also encouraging his love of food. Neighbour Manu and his wife persuade him to dig a large potager and fill it with their favourite vegetables. Winemaker Virgile takes him to lunch at Laurent Arrazat’s new restaurant where he finds himself invited to follow behind the scenes and learn about food from a master chef. As well as trying his best to keep up and help out during busy services, Patrick also makes many other foodie visits during the year to meet cheese makers, snail farmers, honey producers, salt masters, oyster farmers and more. This book often made me hungry and despite the privilege of learning what goes on in a French restaurant kitchen it was the visits to the local producers I enjoyed the most and it has made me more determined to get out and explore my local producers.

The antics of his neighbours, as in book one, regularly made me chuckle and having read these two books back to back I’m going to miss the daily goings on of Manu and Patrick.

These books have both recently been updated and re-released and would be ideal for those who love life in France memoirs, plus those with an interest in French wine and the food of the Languedoc. But be warned, they will make you hungry and want to visit the area. Available in paperback and ebook format, links to Amazon can be found below.