In this year’s surprise hit, ‘The Booklovers’ Guide to Wine’, author Patrick Alexander pairs various famous writers with some of his favorite wines. We asked him to pair some of this year’s most popular Indie publications with their most appropriate wines and this is the perfect-pairing list that he offered.
Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neal deGrasse Tyson
Paired with Dom Pérignon Champagne
In his latest book, Neal deGrasse Tyson’s sparkling wit and celebrity stature help bring all the cosmic mysteries down to earth for us mere mortals to understand. What wine therefore could be more appropriate than the sparkling wine of Champagne, immortalized by a celebrated 17th Century Benedictine monk, Dom Perignon, who, on first discovering champagne, declared “I am drinking stars.”
Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly
Paired with Gewürztraminer from Alsace.
Lilac Girls tells the story of three individual women from France, Poland and Germany, who are enmeshed in the heartbreaking outcome of Germany’s all devouring hunger in World War II. The three women’s stories move across the theatre of tragic mid-century history. But like the Gewürztraminer grape which first grew in the Tyrol region of Italy, was transplanted to the Austrian-Hungarian Empire and then to Germany, it found its fullest and most perfumed glory in the Alsace region of France. A taste of Gewürztraminer, like the heartbreaking themes of this novel, leaves us standing alone in ecstasy, inhaling through the rain, the lingering scent of invisible lilacs.
Leonardo da Vinci- Walter Isaacson.
Paired with a Chenin Blanc from Amboise in the Loire Valley.
The obvious pairing with a book about Leonardo da Vinci would be the Sangiovese grape - a Chianti Classico from Florence, the city where he spent much of his life. But a more perfect pairing would be a Chenin Blanc grape from Amboise in the Loire Valley where he spent his final years. Da Vinci could be anything he chose to be and his areas of interest included invention, painting, sculpting, architecture, science, music, mathematics, engineering, literature, anatomy, geology, astronomy, botany, writing, history, and cartography. In the same way, the Chenin Blanc grapes of the Loire Valley can be dry, sweet or even sparkling. These unique wines of Amboise reflect the wide ranging genius of this Renaissance polymath like no other grape and no other wine ever before or since.
In the Midst of Winter- Isabella Allende
Paired with a Carménère from Chile
Like many of Isabella Allende’s other novels, In The Midst of Winter, explores the themes of lost love and lost opportunities. The novel begins, accidentally in Brooklyn but moves eventually to Allende’s inescapable Chile where it examines the fates of immigrants in the New World. The Carménère grape, lost by accident in 19th century Europe was eventually rediscovered in mid-20th century Chile. Like Allende’s themes of lost and late discovered love, Carménère has since become a symbol of hope and regeneration for the resurgent Chilean wine culture.
The Winelover's Daughter by Anne Fadiman.
Paired with a Chateau Lafitte 1904
This loving biography of the author’s father begins, like Isabella Allende’s novel, in Brooklyn where Clifton Fadiman was born, determined to escape a life of working class ignominy. To demonstrate his later success in life as a sophisticated literary critic with a plummy upper-crust accent, expensive suits, and an encyclopedic knowledge of Western literature he became an obsessive wine connoisseur. To celebrate his 80th birthday in 1984, he drank a 1904 bottle of Chateau Lafitte. How could we ever pair him with anything less?
Beren and Luthien by JRR Tolkien.
Paired with an Albariño from Galicia in N.W. Spain
The Albarino grapes were first planted in this desolate corner of N.W. Spain by German monks in the twelfth century. Spurred by the quest to reach the tomb of St Jacques at Compostella, the hooded monks, carrying their precious vines, had left the homely comforts of the Rhine valley and crossed the Black Forest into the land of the Franks. They had traversed the Massif Central and then the Pyrenees before the long trek across Asturias and Galicia to Cape Finisterre - the ‘End of the World’. Like the hooded travelers of Tolkien’s tales, Albariño wines are fresh and energetic, representing a call to adventure with a floral perfume suggesting the distant magic of wizards, elvish princesses, ancient runes, dragon’s gold, and faery lands forlorn.
Or, as Patrick Alexander describes it in The Booklover’s Guide to Wine:
Albariño/Alvarinho (J.R.R. Tolkien): Albariño is a variety of white wine grape grown in Galicia (Northwest Spain) and across the border in Northern Portugal, where it is used to make varietal white wines and Vinho Verde. It is believed to have been brought to Iberia by German Cistercian monks during the twelfth century as they participated in the pilgrimage to St. Jacques de Compostela. Its name Alba-Riño means "the white [wine] from the Rhine," and was probably a Riesling clone originating from the Alsace region of France. The highly floral aroma of the best Albariños recall the Gewurztraminer and Riesling grapes, also from Alsace.
The literary pairing of Albariño with Tolkien is irresistible. Consider the image of hooded monks setting off from their walled monastery on the banks of the Rhine, and crossing the Black Forest to the land of the Franks. There would be perilous days crossing the bleak mountain passes of the Massif-Central before reaching the Spanish border near San Sebastien, and then the long, winding journey along the rocky shoreline of Asturias and Galicia. All the while, they would be carrying their precious offering, the root stock of their delicate vine to be planted, like the body of Saint James, at the end of the Camino de Santiago, near Cape Finistere, the end of the world.
In The Hobbit as well as in The Lord of the Rings, there are several versions of Bilbo Baggins’ walking song:
Roads go ever, ever on,
Over rock and under tree,
By caves where never sun has shone,
By streams that never find the sea;
Over snow by winter sown,
And through the merry flowers of June,
Over grass and over stone,
And under mountains in the moon.
Albariño wines are fresh and energetic, representing a call to adventure with a floral perfume suggesting the distant magic of wizards, elvish princesses, ancient runes, dragon’s gold, and faery lands forlorn.