Reading Champagne Baby by Laure Dugas is like having an extended conversation with a friend who has an interesting job. Her passion is wine. This book is about wine. This book is about how she didn’t have a passion for wine. Then she did. Wine pulled her up from her roots, swished her around the American landscape, and plunked her back in her country so she could find discover what her new terroir would yield.
The big pitch on this book seems to be “Look! A Frenchwoman moved to the U.S. and learned about wine (instead of the other way around!).” But that’s not the essence of this book. Her cultural reflections and insights are interesting flavors in her story but not dominating themes. To say this is a travel memoir is a disservice to the knowledge, perspective, and thoughtful consideration Dugas pours into the book.
She’s tells you, try this! Here are some things to know about that. Let me tell you a story about when I tried this. Look over here! Oh, this reminds me….Consider! And remember that time? She’s telling you as a friend because she herself has traveled the road between ambivalence to passion, and the part that is most interesting to her is the road itself. Her credibility comes from her personal story with wine and her professional expertise. She could not have written this book successfully in the absence of either.
She tells her story not so much to say, “Look! A Frenchwoman came to the U.S. and learned about wine!” but so that she can say, “I see you sitting there a little intimidated by this bottle, but let’s open it up and explore it. Trust me, it’s amazing. Even when it’s terrible and corky.”
The narrative of her experience abroad and the development of her wine career intersect around the idea of terroir. As she talks about her home, and finding a new way in a new city, and learning a new career, and sampling the flavors of wine, and navigating the distances in her relationships, she finds her comments again and again coming back to terroir.
“Here is a fruit that sucks up all the essence of the land and conveys those qualities to you in liquid form. This is terroir.”
And though in that case she is definitely speaking about the fruit, you can’t help but make the connection to what she encounters during this time frame and how it influences her choices. Just like the grapes conveying qualities in liquid form is a boon for mankind, it was a pleasure to experience the terroir that Dugas distilled in book form. A glass of wine and a good book are a perfect pair – particularly in this case.