First of all, a big thank you to Penguin’s First to Read Program for this beautiful memoir.
Champagne Baby tells the story of 22-years-old Laure Dugas as she navigates a world of wine that she was born into, but denied up until now. Laure was always one to beat to her own drummer, but when her uncle makes her an offer to be his brand ambassador in the United States for six months, how can she refuse? Her interests had never coincided with the family business, but a chance to travel and prove her own worth was one she couldn’t pass up. Ticket to New York City in hand, Laure marches headlong into a new career, a new challenge, and a new life. Who will she be at the end of this journey of self-discovery?
Laure Dugas has written a spectacular delayed coming-of-age tale that I think is really relevant even today, despite being set in the mid-2000s. Most of us don’t have a clear path in our early twenties, and Laure shows how to handle that dilemma with an open mind and strong heart. Being 24 and only discovering what I want to be recently, I found myself empathizing a lot with Laure’s choices. Her guts in coming to a new country and learning a new language, faking it until you make it in a man-driven world, and eventually finding what you love is so inspiring.
The other wonderful aspect of this book is, of course, the wine. Interspersed in Laure’s memoir are whole passages about everything to do with wine, whether it be the terroir (earth the vines grew in), different notes to taste in wine, or even the basics of acidity, tannins and notes. This style can run the risk of sounding dry to a reader (no pun intended), but Laure keeps it so fresh, treating wine like a friend instead of like the intimidating industry that she now participates in. I ended up screenshotting and bookmarking page upon page of useful wine information, even going as far as being able to use that knowledge recently at a gathering with friends. (Hint; Try the 2005 Bordeaux.)
The only cons to this memoir were the slow pace in the beginning and the speed in the ending, ironically enough. I found that Dugas’s decision to come the the US was written in a drawn out manner, as well as her first month in the states. The last portion, the “of age” in her coming of age tale, I can understand rushing since she is living it as of now, however that didn’t stop me from wanting more. I am a sucker for a happy ending.
A solid four waves, and perfect timing too: The hardcover edition came out May 3rd!!