Extremely Pale Rosé by Jamie Ivey

Jamie Ivey has written three books about rosé wine. I read the second one first, La Vie en Rosé, but that wasn’t the best way round. These books involve Jamie, his wife Tanya and their older friend Peter. However, Peter was never formally introduced in La Vie which made for very puzzling reading! But it all makes sense now.

Extremely Pale Rosé is a livelier read all round than the follow-up. Here’s what it’s about. A chance conversation in a Provençal restaurant leads to a very unlikely quest – a hunt to find France’s palest rosé. A lot is at stake. The three Brits have actually entered into a bet with a wine producer, Miriam Etienne, to prove that her rosé isn’t the palest one in the country. If they win the bet, which will be brought to a conclusion the following year when the wine harvest is over, they will get a lifetime’s supply of the Etienne’s rosé. But if they lose … they have to find a UK importer for an undisclosed amount of the Etienne’s wine. This is worrying.

But they take on the bet. Jamie and Tanya give up their jobs in London and rent out their flat and set off to France for the summer, with Peter in tow. The book is about their various visits to a huge assortment of vineyards to track down an extremely pale rosé. They find a vin gris, but will that count as rosé. They also find a very pale pink rosé in a supermarket, but will this be pale enough?

I won’t give the ending away. I’m actually slightly confused by it. Usually a very good, and always extremely readable, writer, there are times when James Ivey doesn’t come over very clearly. But that’s not very often.

I enjoyed the book. It wasn’t a true ‘living in France’ book since it’s only a temporary visit to France. But there are wonderful descriptions of the customs and countryside. There are rather too many references to hooked noses in the French people they come across for my liking, but generally the book is appreciative of France and the French. Too many French experience books go for cheap laughs through nasty national stereotyping.

I had to envy their apparently large budget for this trip as they ate out endlessly and rented out splendid sounding apartments along the way! A nice way to see France if you can manage it. And they didn’t just journey physically. James Ivey describes how he grew closer to Tanya, but he’s honest enough to talk about their rows and differences of opinion. He confesses his inner uneasiness with France, where he feels that his lack of mastery of the language makes him a misfit. He also admits to not knowing that much about wine, certainly at the beginning of the quest.

I was delighted to see an index at the back of this book. As a trained indexer, that made my day! So many books that should have indexes don’t, because no-one’s prepared to pay for them. The publisher should foot the bill in my opinion. It’s only a few hundred euro or so, which is nothing in a books’ budget compared with editing and typesetting fees. Yet so often authors have to pay themselves, and so many just won’t bother. A good index adds tremendously to any non-fiction book. So thanks, Jamie, for bucking the general trend!

The book has a lovely bright cover and small, attractive black and white illustrations at the start of each chapter and sometimes at the end too. These are very classy and nice. Another thoughtful touch, like the index. There is also a list of Peter’s favourite rosés, Tanya’s favourite places to stay and Jamie’s favourite restaurants. Again, nice.

Well worth reading. If you’re a foodie or a rosé fanatic, you’ll find it particularly appealing. The book won an award for wine writing and it’s easy to see why. I think even I could fudge my way through a wine tasting after reading how the pros do it in this book!

Published by Phoenix, part of Orion books. Not available for Kindle which is a shame. 🙁

You can get it in all the usual places (Amazon, Book Depository etc). Copies from 1 c on Amazon marketplace at www.amazon.fr.

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