The Lost Vintage: A Novel

The Lost Vintage: A Novel

by Ann Mah


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The Lost Vintage: A Novel by Ann Mah

“If you enjoyed Sarah’s Key and Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale, then this wonderful book by Ann Mah is for you.”   — Tatiana de Rosnay

Sweetbitter meets The Nightingale in this page-turning novel about a woman who returns to her family’s ancestral vineyard in Burgundy and unexpectedly uncovers a lost diary, an unknown relative, and a secret her family has been keeping since World War II.

To become one of only a few hundred certified wine experts in the world, Kate must pass the notoriously difficult Master of Wine examination. She’s failed twice before; her third attempt will be her last chance. Suddenly finding herself without a job and with the test a few months away, she travels to Burgundy to spend the fall at the vineyard estate that has belonged to her family for generations. There she can bolster her shaky knowledge of Burgundian vintages and reconnect with her cousin Nico and his wife, Heather, who now oversee day-to-day management of the grapes. The one person Kate hopes to avoid is Jean-Luc, a talented young winemaker and her first love.

At the vineyard house, Kate is eager to help her cousin clean out the enormous basement that is filled with generations of discarded and forgotten belongings. Deep inside the cellar, behind a large armoire, she discovers a hidden room containing a cot, some Resistance pamphlets, and an enormous cache of valuable wine. Piqued by the secret space, Kate begins to dig into her family’s history—a search that takes her back to the dark days of World War II and introduces her to a relative she never knew existed, a great–half aunt who was a teenager during the Nazi occupation.

As she learns more about her family, the line between resistance and collaboration blurs, driving Kate to find the answers to two crucial questions: Who, exactly, did her family aid during the difficult years of the war? And what happened to six valuable bottles of wine that seem to be missing from the cellar’s collection?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062823311
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 06/19/2018
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 27,825
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

Ann Mah is a food and travel writer based in Paris and Washington DC. She is the author of the food memoir Mastering the Art of French Eating, and a novel, Kitchen Chinese. She regularly contributes to the New York Times’ Travel section and she has written for Condé Nast Traveler,,, Washingtonian magazine, and other media outlets.

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The Lost Vintage: A Novel 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
gaele 10 months ago
Readers beware – this is not truly a story of wine, but one of a family that has held secrets and scars and land, all through hundreds of years and fine Bordeaux wines, even in the worst of times. Kate’s mother took her back to her home in France occasionally and rarely, but never was she (or the family) much for sharing history. Now years later with her Master of Wine practical (tasting) exam coming up, and the unexpected closing of the restaurant at which she worked: she has time (and a nudge from her mentor) and returns to the family vineyard. Her friend from university is married to her cousin with two young children, the time to pick the grapes is coming up, and where better to sharpen her knowledge and understanding of the process than on an actual vineyard. While we work out Kate’s story and see her tentatively reach to her own history and struggle with her choices, there is another narrative voice in the story – that of Helene, a previously unknown Aunt, just in her teens when the ravages of World War II begin. Helene’s story is provocative, full of the hardships and dangers of war: a particularly perilous time as Hitler was obsessed with rare and fine vintages, selling to highest bidders as a supplement to the war coffers. Many of the Bordeaux vintners had carefully hidden away their best wines, Helene’s father, Kate’s great grandfather, was known for his business sense – his secret cave was filled with the best vintages, the most well-known wines. Kate and Heather are determined to discover more about Helene – early discoveries lead to her persecution for collaboration, where all mention of her stops. The crisis of confidence, the guilt and even Heather’s fury at discovering a collaborator in the family, and the tacit acceptance as no one will (or has) answered those questions doesn’t seem to fit with Kate’s big discovery – a hidden room behind a giant armoire, with thousands of bottles of wine, a small room with a desk and tracts from the Resistance groups, all with the potential to shore up, perhaps even save the vineyard through the tough times. A mystery, a family history, the discovery of long-buried secrets, shames, and the curious interest shown in the search (and the wine) from Kate’s former boyfriend’s new girlfriend and the strange American that never quite seem honest, all in search for one particular wine – one created on the family vineyard and resembling drops of gold. Fascinating and frustrating in alternating moments, as we, the readers, are shown Helene’s heart almost from the beginning, her bravery and determination as she puts herself in danger and struggles to keep her younger brothers healthy and whole, even when her step-mother is less than involved. It is all too easy for Kate and Heather, not having the actual story and history until the end, to use the few references and bits of information to conclude that the ‘available history’ is the only story, and her Uncle, one of Helene’s young half-brothers, was too young, and is too intimidating to ask for the truth. Fascinating for the story, the questions discovered as they dig up family history, and the struggles and feel of Occupied France as we follow Helene’s tale, now brought to light. Mah has taken a story that is essentially a search for self and history and turned it into a compelling and fascinating read, in which all of the pieces weave together
Anonymous 16 days ago
An excellent read about heritage, hidden truths & the discivery of what's truly important. A book you can't put down.
Anonymous 25 days ago
I started reading and didn't stop. I read this in one sitting a delicious read
Anonymous 29 days ago
Great entertaining story line, well written and kept me engaged until the very end. I would love a sequel... Hit hit hit. Thanks
anya1632 8 months ago
Ann Mah is an extraordinary writer, and The Lost Vintage is a delicious concoction of mystery, deftly handled family drama, and a fascinating glimpse into the world of wine-making. A vineyard in Burgundy, secrets hidden since World War II, and two perfectly-balanced narratives (one contemporary, one set during the war), make this an unforgettable read. Mah never, ever disappoints - I've loved all of her books, but this might just be my favorite. She's the rare writer who can effortlessly switch between fiction and non-fiction.
anya1632 8 months ago
Ann Mah is an extraordinary writer, and The Lost Vintage is a delicious concoction of mystery, deftly handled family drama, and a fascinating glimpse into the world of wine-making. A vineyard in Burgundy, secrets hidden since World War II, and two perfectly-balanced narratives (one contemporary, one set during the war), make this an unforgettable read. Mah never, ever disappoints - I've loved all of her books, but this might just be my favorite. She's the rare writer who can effortlessly switch between fiction and non-fiction.
bookchickdi 9 months ago
Often when I read books with dual timelines, one story is much more interesting to me than the other. Not so in the case of Ann Mah's novel, The Lost Vintage. Kate is a sommelier living in San Francisco preparing to take the Test- an extremely difficult exam to be become a Master of Wine. She knows most of the wines that will be on the test, but she is weak in the area of French Burgundy, which is ironic since her family has owned a vineyard in the Burgundy region for generations. She decides to go visit her cousin Nico and his wife Heather, where they run the run the family vineyard with her Uncle Philippe. Kate's mom left France years ago and has little to do with her family, something that bothers Kate as she does not know the reason why. Heather and Kate take on the task of cleaning out the huge basement, filled with so much stuff it looks like an episode of Hoarders. While cleaning it out, Kate discovers that there is a hidden cellar filled with hundreds of bottles of wine hidden during the German occupation in WWII. She also discovers that she had a great-aunt whom no one talked about- Helene. Uncle Philippe is tight-lipped about Helene, and doesn't want Kate and Heather asking any more questions about Helene or WWII. Kate and Heather discover that Helene was accused of being a "horizontal collaborator", a woman who had sex with the German occupiers in exchange for better treatment by the soldiers. Helene was assaulted and shunned by the townspeople, and she died shortly after the war ended. This information devastated Kate and Heather. Kate was ashamed that her relative could have done the things they accused her of. They look for Helene's journal to find out why she did what she did. The reader has access to Helene's journal, and we see her beginnings as a young woman, interested in becoming a scientist before the war dashes her dreams. She and her father hide English soldiers and Jewish families in their hidden cellar, and Helene works for the Resistance. How does she end up a collaborator? The Lost Vintage is a wonderfully written novel, and fans of The Nightingale and The Women In The Castle, will find this story just as interesting. Mah weaves these stories together seamlessly, and the tension as Helene works to help the Resistance and Kate searches for a missing bottle of a vintage wine that could save her family's vineyard from financial ruin ratchets up page by page. (And both stories are equally intriguing.) My husband and I recently visited some old vineyards in the Chianti region of Italy, so I was endlessly fascinated by Mah's vivid descriptions of life as a wine maker. Her descriptions of the delicious meals eaten by Kate's family is heaven for people like me who enjoy "foodie fiction". (And I could live forever on what Nico calls "the three c's for dinner- charcuterie, cheese and crudites", with wine of course.) If you enjoy traveling to another place in your books, reading The Lost Vintage will send you to the Burgundy region of France without ever leaving your home. I highly recommend it.
Allie Larkin 10 months ago
A gorgeous novel of French food, wine, and a mystery from the past rapidly unraveling. Not only do I love this book, but I loved the experience of reading it. It felt like an adventure and would make for excellent book club discussion. While I know this book will be the perfect gift for the wine aficionados in my life, I don't know much about wine personally and enjoyed learning about the culture and intricacies of French vineyards through the story. It's beautifully written and expertly plotted. I couldn’t stop reading and wanted to savor every word.