There are millions of delicious wines in this world, and just as many fabulous books to read. If you are like me and a member of a book club, it is often an excuse for getting together with female friends, drinking wine and catching up. We all love the books, but we like the wine and company just as much. So why not marry the two?
In this vain, I asked my friend, Sommelier Andy Narusewicz, who is curator and wine educator for the Leesburg Gourmet in Leesburg Virginia his recommendations for pairings with books. He didn’t even bat an eye at the somewhat odd request, but dove right in with suggestions.
Backpack and Albariño
For a fun beach read, Emily Barr’s Backpack is one of my all-time favorites. It’s about a woman, traveling alone through Thailand and finding herself (what a great topic for a book club, right?) but it’s also a murder mystery and an all-around fun read.
For a beachy book, Narusewicz recommends going a little literal with a Spanish Albariño. Albariño wines are white wines that are mainly from Spain or Portugal and are often paired with seafood. “It has a briny, sea salt character to it, and it is classically beach,” says Narusewicz.
July’s People and Swartland Wines
Nadine Gordimer is a South African writer who was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1991. She wrote about moral and racial issues with a focus on apartheid. She is one of my personal favorites, and offers a lot to talk about in a book club group. I would recommend in particular, reading July’s People, which was written during apartheid and is an imagined version of South Africa without a apartheid, after a civil war. This unbelievably well written book should resonate with women and gives way to many interesting discussions about power, race, and the world today, even decades after apartheid ended.
Pair it with one of these South African wines:
Narusewicz recommends trying with AA Badenhort’s Cinsault or the Sadie Family Palladius 2015. Both of these wines are from Swartland, a Western Cape province north of Cape Town. It boasts its own wine route where grapes are grown under dryland conditions with minimal irrigation.
The Literal Take: Grapes of Wrath and California Wines
This is wine and book club article, right? If you haven’t had a chance to read John Steinbeck’s classic Grapes of Wrath, this is the perfect opportunity. This Pulitzer prize winner about the Great Depression, has a lot to talk about. It has a heavy focus on division between people in America, something that will definitely resonate with people today where the same issues of equality, power and justice are at the forefront of discussions. Steinbeck’s simple use of language also makes it an easy read.
To pair with this classic, Narusewicz recommends a California wine that is “rustic and intense, like a classic cabernet St. Helena, or a Chateau Montelena.
The Last Time I Saw Paris and Brilliant French Wines
A choice for historical fiction buffs, The Last Time I Saw Paris by Lynne Sheene is a fun, fast pace read about a woman fleeing a bad marriage in the United States and finding herself in World War II Paris. It’s a classic romance with an old school feeling about it, that captures what it is like to be an expatriate in Paris.
Poor Andy, when I asked him to suggest great French wines on a budget, his response was “This is like asking me who my favorite child is.” He settled on the 2017 Cuvee Signee Maitre de Chai Chinon, which he described as “100% Cab Franc, 100% heaven.”