The Taste of a Good Book: Pairing Wine and Words
Guest post with a tasty roundup of Texas authors by Austin writer Manning Wolfe.
While there are those who haphazardly pour a glass of wine while reading a good book, I’m a strong advocate for selecting a wine that compliments the book to enhance the experience of the read and the bouquet of the wine. Just like there are pairings of wine and food, there are pairings of words and fermented grapes.
Those who are into wine and food pairings know that it helps to have some basic knowledge of how to balance the flavors of the food with the perfect wine. Flavors from wine are created from particular components: sugar, acid, fruit, tannin and alcohol. Foods, too, have specific components: fat, acid, salt, sugar and bitter. Books contain drama, humor, sweetness and pathos.
Just like successful food pairings, wine and book pairings should have complementary components – whether similar or contrasting. Since I write and read a lot of thrillers and mysteries, and enjoy Texas authors, I’ll offer some suggestions for pairings with those genres and writers.
For example, Mark Pryor’s psychopath in Hollow Man would not walk into an Austin bar and order a Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, which pairs well with shellfish and light sauces. Nor would Deborah Crombie’s Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James share a bottle of Italian Prosecco before discovering a dead body or returning to Scotland Yard.
Wines that pair nicely with thrillers such as Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley are full-bodied, red like blood, and able to cut through heavy proteins and fat. With Hollow Man and Ripley, I suggest a 2013 Caymus Conundrum, 25th Anniversary, California Red Blend. Priced at under $30, its complicated tones of dark berries, chocolate and bacon bits pair nicely with a complex villain like Dominic in Pryor’s novel. The 2013 Chateau Peymouton Saint-Emilion is also under $30. Its full-bodied berries and black currants hold up well against assassins, serial killers and hit-men.
Wines that pair nicely with cozies, mysteries or lighthearted caper stories are medium to lighter whites or even a bubbly. For Bill Crider’s brisk and funny Sheriff Dan Rhodes series, I suggest a fun-loving Chardonnay or Zinfandel. The Francis Ford Coppola, Napa Valley, California, 2013 Votre Sante’ Chardonnay (a real bargain at around $15) would do well. The baking spice flavors with butter and toasted almonds make this wine a good pairing for solving a mystery or heist caper. An option for Susan Wittig Albert’s China Bayles series might be the Texas Legato Winery‘s Sweet Peggy Sue. With a nose of Granny Smith apples, peaches and hints of tropical fruits, at under $25, the Peggy Sue is very drinkable and likable.
Readers of Stephen Harrigan, Jesse Sublett, Elizabeth Garcia and Reavis Z. Wortham novels might enjoy a nice Pinot Noir such as the Meiomi 2014, under $30. Its dryness with almond tones suits the western spirit. Another option, under $60, is the Oregon, Ghost Hill 2012 Prospector’s Reserve Pinot Noir, with notes of baking spices, toasted coconut, caramel and salted peanuts.
I suggest that you experiment with your own pairings until you find just the right fit for your palate. Taking a book on a vineyard tour and finding a nice tree to read and sip under might open some possibilities. Regardless of your taste and budget, even making a few mistakes can be fun as long as the task is addressed with a little tongue in cheek attitude and willingness to experiment.
Manning Wolfe is an author and attorney residing in Austin, Texas. She writes cinematic-style, smart, fast-paced thrillers with a salting of Texas bullshit. The first book in her series featuring Austin Lawyer Merit Bridges is Dollar Signs: Texas Lady Lawyer vs Boots King. A graduate of Rice University and the University of Texas School of Law, Manning’s experience has given her a voyeur’s peek into some shady characters’ lives and a front row seat to watch the good people who stand against them.