Monday, September 8, 2014

Book review of Saving Our Skins by Caro Feely


My review today is for Saving Our Skins: Building a Vineyard Dream in France by Caro Feely, her second memoir about family life on an organic vineyard in Saussignac, Dordogne and one of my favourite reads this summer.
French Village Diaries book review Saving Our Skins Caro Feely Dordogne wine organic Summersdale publishers
Saving Our Skins

Following on from Grape Expectations: A Family's Vineyard Adventure in France her first book about the early years setting up their organic vineyard, (see my review here) this is another great memoir written from the heart. With regulations, bureaucracy, weather and other things sent to try the patience of a saint, life isn’t always easy for Caro and her husband Sean who often seem to be living on the edge and following the fine line between coping and disaster. However, little by little they start to see the signs that their hard work and determination (which they seem to have in bucketfuls) is paying off. It is an uncomfortable read in places, but sharing the bad as well as the good meant I felt their excitement when there were things to celebrate. There is no doubt they have established a name for themselves in the industry and winning the wine tourism awards was a fantastic achievement.

Caro’s passion for their organic lifestyle meant this book was not only entertaining but informative too. If you are in anyway concerned or interested in the safety and quality of the food you eat and going organic, this book will enlighten and educate, without preaching. She certainly made me sit up, take note and left me determined to make a few changes little and often about what goes into my shopping basket. According to Caro, vintners in France are heavier users of toxic chemicals than the farmers and many of the products they use recommend staying out of the vineyard for 48 hours after usage. This really grabbed at my attention and more so when she explains that grapes are not washed before being crushed and made into wine. The first farmer in France to have his illness officially linked to the use of pesticides and chemicals was a winegrower who coincidently lived in Ruffec, only twenty kilometres from where I live. He died of his leukaemia. Caro also talks about the apple farmer in her village who openly admits to NEVER eating his own fruit because of the chemicals he uses on them.

French Village Diaries Organic Charente Vineyards
Organic Charente vineyards
Reading Caro’s book really set the cat among the pigeons and led me to search out alternative products. In doing so, to celebrate our tenth anniversary of moving to France Ade found himself accompanying me to Cognac for the open day at a local(ish) organic vineyard. We took part in their treasure hunt, a four-kilometre trek around the vineyards searching for hidden questions about wine production and then enjoyed a tasting session. Thankfully having read this book I was able to answer a few more of the questions than I would otherwise have done. Something life in France has taught me is that less is more and learning to live by this means I am now happy to spend a little bit more on a locally produced organic wine even if it means drinking a little less. I also feel happy that by making small changes each week to what goes into my shopping basket, I’m not only making good choices for my family but also doing my bit to support the organic farmers like Caro and Sean.


Saving Our Skins: Building a Vineyard Dream in France and Grape Expectations: A Family's Vineyard Adventure in France are published by Summersdale (who sent me a copy to read and review) and are available in ebook and paperback format. Links to Amazon are below.

To find our more about Sean and Caro’s vineyard, their selection of wine and events see here. To read her France et Moi interview with me see here.