A Few Good Reads

Wine is a truly amazing nectar – there are very few events that aren’t improved by a good bottle of wine. A big, juicy steak dinner, an afternoon in the backyard with the neighbors, a rollicking night with a few close friends, all made better with a glass of fermented grape juice close by.

And it’s not just about parties with friends either. Some of the best moments are those spent curled up with a good book, glass to hand, while you pick at clues in the latest mystery or ponder the fate of Richard the Lionheart in your favorite bit of history. We fabulous five have been known to enjoy a good read as well (admittedly made easier by the appearance of an e-reader in the house though we do still love the smell and texture of paper….) and we’ll sample anything, as long as it’s well-written and entertaining.

We mention our love of books because we found ourselves pondering a question posed by Mostest the other day. Do certain wines pair better with certain books? It’s not a question of matching flavors (for the most part – ignore those teeth marks in the pages of the latest Sue Grafton please) so much as it is a matter of matching atmosphere.

Take, for example, the worlds of Agatha Christie. Her sprightly Miss Marple would seem to call out for a wine that was as surprisingly clever as she. We were inclined towards a white that was deceptively plain but had great depth. And certainly never heavy. American Chardonnay seemed too weighty for the inimitable Miss Marple but a white Burgudy seemed closer to the mark. French oak gives the grape layers of flavor while leaving that nice bounce of youth. Or perhaps a nice Vouvray from the Loire Valley, which can be cellared for years and still taste bright and fresh.

And then there’s Ms. Christie’s most popular detective, the Belgian Hercule Poirot. Poirot was notoriously neat and particular, and would no doubt be diagnosed as OCD in the modern world. His wine would be just as particular. It would definitely be a red, something classic and timeless, complex and subtle. A Romanee-Conti or a Petrus seemed appropriate, if hard to come by. A more easily located choice, the Meritage blends, might be an acceptable replacement – say a lovely bottle of Testarossa or Aria from Harmony Cellars.

And what of the American brand of mystery solvers? Robert Parker’s Spencer and Jesse Stone would both require big, bold reds full of spice and tobacco. Think Shiraz or Cabernet Sauvignon. Or Kinsey Milhone, whom we mentioned before, herself a fan of the occasional glass. Unfortunately, many of Kinsey’s wines are courtesy of the Hungarian restaurant she frequents, and are not, perhaps, the best the area has to offer. But white Hungarians need not be feared. There are some excellent Tokaj out there, like  Kiralyudvar, which makes not only the traditional sweet Tokaj but a drier, oakier version as well. It turns out that the Hungarian furmint goes well with a little oak.

All well and good, but all we’ve covered so far have been a few of our favorite mysteries. We recently finished Phillip Pullman’s prequel, La Belle Sauvage. How exciting to get drawn back into that alternate world and to learn more about Lyra, but the question of the perfect wine pairing becomes more perplexing. What does one pair with record flooding? Perhaps something smooth, to help steady your nerves as you join the struggle. Or something big to bolster spirits and embolden the will to fight?

We have time to work out an answer while we wait for the next book in the series. In the meantime, James Madison is calling and we have settled on an old vine Zinfandel, a wine that changes and adapts, but never loses its center. We think Mr. Madison would approve.

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