Grape Expectations:
A Family’s Vineyard Adventure
in France



288 pages

Release date: October 2013, 288 pages,
by Summersdale

Grape Expectations


Filled with vivid descriptions of delicious wines, great food, and stunning views, this is a unique insight into the world of the winemaker, and a story of passion, dedication, and love.

When Caro and Sean find the perfect 10-hectare vineyard in Saussignac, it seems like their dreams of becoming winemakers in the south of France are about to come true. But they arrive in France with their young family (a toddler and a newborn) to be faced with a dilapidated 18th-century farmhouse and an enterprise that may never, ever make them a living. Undeterred by mouse infestations, a leaking roof, treacherous hordes of insects, visits from the local farm “police,” and a nasty accident with an agricultural trimmer, Caro and Sean set about transforming their “beyond eccentric” winery into a successful business as they embark on the biggest adventure of their lives—learning to make wine from the roots up.  [provided by the publisher]

NB: the book was received with success in the UK in 2012, it is now being published in the US.




Caro Feely“Apart from smoking on the fire escape at school – don’t tell my parents – I was a co-founder of the first magazine published by students which covered chocolate obsessions, and the funny, eccentric and bizarre things that happen at girls only boarding schools.

After university I wrote intermittent articles for newspapers and magazines related to my career in IT consulting. I started writing books in earnest Dublin in 2003 while on maternity leave but it took a gift of Maeve Binchy’s ‘writers club’ from my husband Sean to get my first published book Grape Expectations into good enough shape to attract a publisher – Summersdale – to whom I am eternally grateful for lifting me from the slush pile.” [from the author’s website]




Today, as part of the Virtual Book Tour of Caro Feely with her memoir Grape Expectations, I’m delighted to interview Caro on her French adventure!

reading bug 1. First Caro, I want to thank you for using some of your precious time answering these questions. I know, reading your book, how busy you are!
The first chapters of your book show the dramatic changes you made: moving to a foreign country with a language you basically did not know, going from the city to the countryside in a house almost in ruins, leaving the well-paid world of a large international company to the idea of making and selling your own wine, and with 2 very young kids! This sounds totally impossible to do. Going back to that first year, what would you say was the most challenging of it all?


Caro FeelyIt’s hard to say. Anyone who has moved to a new city or country knows how hard it can be. I think for me, and I am not sure if I give a flavour of this in the book, going from being a career girl to a home based Mum even though I was renovating a house and starting a wine business was a shock.
I think what makes Grape Expectations real to people who are not making wine is the aspect of following a dream and facing change. These are two themes that are meaningful to people everywhere


2. Did you experience a huge culture shock? What would you say is most different between the British and the French cultures?

We are both originally South African but we lived in Ireland for 8 years before moving to France, we are Irish citizens and we have Irish roots. Between the Anglophone and the French cultures there is a chasm of difference. In France food / wine and culture are national passions. Our daughters have a three course french lunch at school – we pay 30 euro per child per month for this but to do it myself would cost more. Sean and I often find ourselves drooling over their school menu wishing we were there. Sophia, my daughter could recognise paintings and classical music at 6 years old that I couldn’t recognise as an adult even after taking art as a senior high school subject. France is also socialist rather than capitalist which comes with some positives and some negatives and frustrations.

3. When did you feel you had really succeeded in this dramatic transition?

Not in Grape Expectations, that is the first three years or what I call the ‘valley of despair’. Perhaps in the second book that I am working on at the moment… watch this space.

4. What do you think was the determining factor for your success in this adventure?

Not giving up. It would have been much easier to give up and there were many moments when we felt like doing just that. Keep practicing. As Gary Player, a famous South African golfer said ‘the more I practice the luckier I get.’ If you have a passion for something it gives you energy and staying power that you wouldn’t have otherwise. For us what started as a wine passion has developed into an ecological and biodynamic passion. We have seen how this translates into a healthy farm and into the quality of the wine. In our wine tasting room and wine school almost everyday I hear ‘I will only buy organic wine from now on,’ from people who have done a wine tour with me. This gives me great motivation. There is a section on our website where I explain why this is so important under why organic/ why biodynamic’ – in part two of this ‘why series’ you can also find an embarrassing language mishap that rivals calling a puppy (chiot) a vulgar term for a toilet: shithole (chiotte) as described in Grape Expecations…  asking a neighbouring winegrower how many condoms were in his wine. To know more readers can sign up to our newsletter on the homepage  or like us on facebook

5. Why did you chose the Bordeaux region? Were you open to other possibilities? Burgundy maybe?

We are in the greater Bordeaux basin but we are in the appellation of Bergerac which is like an extension of the right bank of Bordeaux and in the commune appellation of Saussignac. We looked at many areas but particularly in Languedoc, Roussillon and the greater Bordeaux region. We fell in love with the specific farm rather than the area but we could not have been luckier. In Saussignac, our commune appellation 60% of the growers are organic where the average in France is only 4%. This is great for the quality of our air, water and products. We are in a very welcoming community as readers witness in the help we received from the local community when Sean had his acccident with the evil trimmer as described in Grape Expectations. In addition with the importance of tourism to us being part of Bordeaux has been invaluable. Our wine tours won a Best of Wine Tourism award this year against the biggest and best of Bordeaux. The wine tours and wine school are at and the luxury eco-accommodation we offer

6. What food/dish you think is best paired with the wine you make? Why?

Magret de canard: duck  breast in a wine reduction sauce (recipe at with our reds. We need to match the weight of the wine with the richness of the food. The duck and our reds are made for each other. For a quick wow starters favourites include camembert with rosemary baked in its box (with barrel aged semillon or red depending on your preference),  roquefort and fig (with saussignac dessert wine or red if you dont  want to start with sweet wine), and goats cheese grilled on large brown mushrooms (with sauvignon blanc) also at Wine and food pairing is a true art in France. There are other wine pairing ideas at including a few of my favourites like fresh goats cheese and sauvignon blanc.

7. Apart from visiting your place, any out of the beaten path places you would recommend to a tourist going for the first time in the Bordeaux region?

Don’t miss out on the Dordogne which is east of Bordeaux. It is a haven for walking, canoeing, gourmet food, clifftop villages, castles, gardens and of course wonderful wine.

Seán & Caro Feely

Terroir Feely & French Wine Adventures
EARL Chateau Haut Garrigue
LD Garrigue Basse, 24240 Saussignac, France

Certified organic biodynamic wines: |
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