Marination is the name of the game. If you are cooking, creating, or learning, you need to be fully engaged in order to truly understand the topic at hand. Just like you wouldn’t try to learn about the vocabulary and intricacies of a foreign language by reading a dictionary, you can’t get the full essence of the experience of wine without immersing yourself in it. Wine textbooks, buying guides, or trade journals, while they do offer information, cannot shed light on the entire story and the full experience of how it feels to marinate yourself in the culture and comfort of a stellar bottle of wine.
There are many stories that do wine justice, and several memoirs that top the list. One of America’s quintessential wine importers, Kermit Lynch wrote Adventures on the Wine Route in 1988, and it chronicles the joys and pains of importing wine from the French countryside. Rather than focus on a study of tannins and pH, the story opens the reader to the culture of wine, and the way that wine should make you feel, and all the intangibles that surround the science and art of wine drinking.
“Wine is, above all, pleasure. Those who would make it ponderous make it dull,” Lynch wrote.
Another memoir, Between Meals by A.J. Liebling is the story of the writer’s student years in Paris, and like any good telling of the 1920s in Paris, it focuses on food, wine, and learning about life. His being bent on living and eating frugally is definitely present in the book. “A man who is rich in his adolescence is almost doomed to be a dilettante at the table,” Liebling wrote. “This is not because all millionaires are stupid but because they are not impelled to experiment.” Liebling was a proponent of experimenting with food and drink as a form of adventure, and his tales bear that out.
Beyond personal memoirs like those above, are captivating stories of place. Wine is inexorably tied to certain places, and this type of study is an interesting journey. Napa: The Story of an American Eden by James Conaway, is the story of how the Napa Valley, California area became such a wine powerhouse in the United States. For those who understand the Napa of today, it is fun to look back to the wine pioneers, if at times a bit gossipy. On the other side of the country, the book Summer in a Glass: The Coming of Age of Winemaking in the Finger Lakes by Evan Dawson, showcases the winemakers of the Finger Lakes, New York region who are extremely passionate about putting their vineyards on the map. And they have succeeded, catching the attention of European winemakers who have created some projects in the region.
As for marinating, if you truly want to immerse yourself in something, you need to throw out the facts and figures and simply lean into the topic at hand. This is where fiction comes into play. You may have already thought of this as a gift for the wine lover who has everything! When you read a romance or mystery novel about wine, you are given a front-row glimpse into the world of Burgundies, Rieslings, and Merlots. This will help you understand how their wines mesh with the world you live in.
A Moveable Feast by Ernest Heminway is another classic tale about Paris in the 1920s, and will wow you with its food and wine scenes. If Hemingway is not your speed, try a dose of genre fiction. For example, Martin Walker wrote the Bruno, Chief of Police series to chronicle the lone small-town police official in the Perigord region of southwest France. He cannot solve a crime without a good meal and a great glass of wine, and the cultural elements of the food and drink of the region are weaved generously through the book. John Lanchester’s A Debt to Pleasure chronicles the journey of Tarquin Winot, a sociopath and psychopath who is traveling to Provence. Filled with dark humor and perfect for wine lovers and foodies, this fictional world will draw you in. If you don’t have time to read a whole novel but want to get a taste of wine in a story setting, try Taste by Roald Dahl. With its quirky style and wine as the main character, you will surely be drawn in.
With all this talk of marinating yourself in delicious books and delicious wine, you should really be reading these books with a glass in hand. Barterhouse has many stellar choices which will go well with a good book. With hints of passion fruit and yellow peaches, pair Le Grand Cros with some of the lighter reading on the list. And if you need the time and attention to delve into one of the larger tomes, Chateau Brande Bergere will offer the deep flavors of blueberry and black currant and the ample and round taste that you want to pair with something heavy.
Diving into a topic will engross you in all that it has to offer. Whether a good book or a good bottle of wine, slow down and savor both the science and the art of it as you marinate.