Monday, September 6, 2021

Wine Girl: The Obstacles, Humiliations, and Triumphs of America's Youngest Sommelier by Victoria James


WINE GIRL is one of the best memoirs I've read in a while. The title of the memoir is taken from just one of the disparaging nicknames she was given while working in an industry that was mostly men. In this memoir, she takes that name and she reclaims it, detailing her climb towards being a wine director in the luxurious hospitality industry and working with multiple Michelin-starred restaurants.

To be honest, I'm a little surprised that the ratings for this book are so mixed. It seems like maybe people picked this book up unsure what to expect. This is not a book about wine and wine pairings, nor is it entirely a career memoir that's meant to be a light and fun homage to the food industry. James's path to success was filled with pain, and the beginning of this memoir is about her troubled childhood, told GLASS CASTLE style, before seguing into a detailed struggle about being a naive young woman working with people quick to take advantage. There are descriptions of harassment and sexual assault because in addition to being a success story, this is also a Me Too story, as well as a sort of call to action about what needs to change.

The writing in WINE GIRL is absolutely gorgeous. She has such a way with description and words. It makes the painful parts more painful, but it also makes her accomplishments even more exciting to read about, and the food and wine descriptions incredibly sumptuous and wonderful. Like the author, I have a passion for wine, food, and the natural world. I often tell my friends that good wine means wine you like. I feel like the author has a similar attitude, maybe because of her humble beginnings: whatever the reason, she doesn't come across as arrogant and pedantic as some wine experts do. I appreciated her defense of affordable wines and roses.

I'm not really sure what else to say about this book except that I loved it. It would make a great movie; it just has that shiny, large-than-life feel that Hollywood loves to embrace. This was an impulse buy for me in the Kindle store and now I'm going to recommend it to all of my friends. Anyone who is interested in wine or feminism should pick up this book, as James has a lot of interesting things to say about both. Now excuse me, while I pick up her other book about rose wine.

5 out of 5 stars

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