The Secrets of My Life: Vintner, Prisoner, Soldier, Spy by Peter M. F. Sichel… One cannot take the life of a such a fascinating man as Peter Sichel, and condense it into 1,000 words or less in a complete book report, and so I’ve just begun writing about Peter Sichel.

BOOK’S BACK PAGE: Peter M. F. Sichel was educated in Germany and England and fled France in 1941. He spent seventeen years with the U.S. Office of Strategic Services and the Central Intelligence Agency in some of the top hot spots of the Cold War before joining his family’s wine business.

I also don’t treat the books that I receive as book reviews. That’s writing 50 of the most thoughtful words or less that one is able, hitting the essence and inspiring others with the “need” to read the book. That, my friends, is a very difficult job. It’s easy to write a lot. The tough part comes when one condenses all of the paragraphs down into 50 of the most powerful words possible.

Let me just quote Marvin Shanken’s review as an example. My wine colleagues know that Mr. Shanken is the editor and publisher of Wine Spectator. My non-related wine friends may not know this, so I want to clarify that Marvin Shanken is as powerful as it gets in the wine business. For him to have written the following is the only endorsement that Peter Sichel would have needed, yet a book did come to me for review and I’m honored.

Peter Sichel is an iconic figure in the history of wine. With his European upbringing and early years in the CIA, his story is both fascinating and compelling. His success with Blue Nun is nothing short of classic marketing.” — Marvin R. Shanken, Editor & Publisher, Wine Spectator

My own thoughts about this book, very briefly on a personal level:

Reading Peter Sichel’s memoir is like taking an advanced course in not only wine history, but also wine in wine marketing. Sichel touches upon the American market. But, more important to those of us who already know a bit about the United States’ wine history, his adventures as they relate to Europe, including what happened to the business of wine during World War II, connect some very important missing dots in wine history’s chronology. At least it did for me. This is an advanced course for anyone who’s serious about understanding the business of wine.

It’s also a real eye opener for someone just learning about wine. It will equally move you into a fast forward mode.

It went even deeper for me. There is so much that I don’t know about my parent’s generation regarding WW II. After that war, no one talked about it. No one helped my father with his post traumatic stress disorder. It hadn’t even been defined as such yet. He had it, we lived with it, and that generation for years and years, never brought up their experiences. It wasn’t until just before he died in his early 60s that we were told he had landed on the Beaches of Normandy on D Day… A whole life of carrying that burden. Am I surprised that it took Mr. Sichel until he reached his 90s to finally write his thoughts? No, not at all. My father returned home to a wife and a new daughter, my older sister. And… couldn’t even bear to tell his story. It’s very brave for Peter to take this time in his life to put it all into perspective as a merry old soul

Peter’s life took many interesting twists and turns, then finally doubled back into his family’s business. Every segment left me wanting to read more, with so much to take in with every single word going forward.

I wanted to know all about his life as a prisoner and spy… So will you.

Map of Cold-War era Europe and the Near East s...

Map of Cold-War era Europe and the Near East showing countries that received Marshall Plan aid. The red columns show the relative amount of total aid per nation. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you lived through the Cold War, as I did as a child, thinking that
the Cold War had no bearing on you… Oh, boy, were we wrong.

If you want to know anything about WW II, from a soldier’s perspective, so will you want to read his book.

If professionally you need to know about European wines, but your point of reference is not concerned with Europe, so will you want to read this fascinating book.

If you’re new to wine and living in Europe, you need to know his historical perspective. It will broaden who you are with arrow-like speed.

Closing the book for the last time, with it being completed, was sad… Sad to not be absorbing more each night and picking more of Peter’s brain.

Final thought for today

I’ll be repeatedly returning to this book for more blog stories, while referencing Peter Sichel. Bordeaux and German wines, for instance, there are so many stories that can wrap around his history as it relates to when he was active and today’s on-going activities as I’m learning them. He’s a category unto himself, while he fleshes out so many other categories.

Reading Peter Sichel’s intriguing memoir has given an important segment of the wine world’s history to us all. Born in Germany in 1922, Peter’s family already had much history as a wine négociant company, prior to World War II. He began his careers in life as a vintner, the prisoner, soldier, and spy segment finally had him doubling back to vintner. It is what he learned in his second segment as a vintner that connected me to some really important history, for which I will be ever grateful.

Published by: Archway Publishing