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Wine & Literature: Where Culture, Stories, and Vino Unite

Literary wine pairings for curious connoisseurs.

wine glass and book by the sea

"Wine is one of the most civilized things in the world," said Ernest Hemingway. We know wine helped Hemingway write, but can it help one read? What if the wine is paired with the book? Surely, there’s a cultural combination worth trying.

I've always enjoyed exploring wine through the lens of culture and art, curating wine selections based on popular novels and hosting wine tastings inspired by the lives of famous artists. The stories become part of the wine, and the experience is heightened. You don't need to know the technical details of how the wine was made, but the creative context of the wine becomes a memorable tale that will stay with you.

Perhaps you will share that story the next time the wine crosses your dinner table.

Here are my top three wine and book combinations to explore along with bonus short story. Who knows, they may inspire a full-blown book club dinner party or a quiet, restful evening with a glass of wine featured in one of these stories.

  1. A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

Gentleman in Moscow Book and glass

The main character, Count Rostov, is truly a gentleman in all sense of the word. He is very well-mannered, well-read, and has great respect for history and culture. It follows that he is an avid wine connoisseur. We are shown this straight away at the start of the book when – having been stripped of most of his belongings-– the Count unpacks his suitcase in his new, tiny attic accommodations to reveal a large collection of wine glasses! “...he kneeled before the Ambassador, threw the clasps, and opened it like a giant book. Carefully secured inside were fifty-two glasses–or more precisely, twenty-six pairs of glasses–each shaped to its purpose, from the grand embrace of the Burgundy glass down to those charming vessels designed for brightly coloured liqueurs of southern Europe.” (pg 17) There is something for every wine lover in this novel as so many icons feature in the book, but the main wines to taste alongside: Champagne, Georgian Saperavi, and Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Read a more detailed account of the wine and story here.

2. The Leopard by Tomasi di Lampedusa & Donnafugata

The Leopard book and donnafugata wines

This Italian novel is considered essential reading for Sicilians and visitors alike. Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa left an enduring legacy with his singular work, "The Leopard," published posthumously by his family. The book evokes a certain mood, set in the era of the risorgimento, Italy's unification, it captures the grandeur of Sicily's royalty as it faces inevitable change.

The influence of "The Leopard" extends beyond literature to the world of wine, notably embodied by Donnafugata winery. Founded by Giacomo and Gabriella Rallo, Donnafugata pays tribute to Lampedusa's masterpiece in both name and branding. The winery takes its name from the fictional town and palace featured in the novel, Donnafugata, which translates to "Woman in Flight" in Italian. This name in turn refers to Queen Maria-Carolia's flight from Naples to Sicily to escape the French army, settling in wild western region of Sicily with her court.

Donnafugata winery further intertwines its identity with "The Leopard" by naming severalof its wines after characters from the book, such as Tancredi, Sedara, Angheli, and Mille e Una Notte (the label features Donnafugata palace). Although the wines referenced in the book tend to be of French origin, it fitting to drink one of Sicily's best wine producers while reading this classic book.

3. A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway & French Wines

Garden table with figs, book, and wines

In A Moveable Feast, Hemingway shows what life was like for aspiring writers in Paris. He recounts his friendships with Scott Fitzgerald and Gertrude Stein, his first marriage, life in the Latin Quarter, and his writing routine in Parisian cafes. His love of good wine shines through as he never fails to mention which bottle he enjoyed with his friends and what they ate with it. Wine was entwined with the writer's lifestyle in Paris. Which wines can you try today that were popular in 1920s Paris?

Sancerre mentioned in A False Spring, "Another day later that year when we had come back from one of our voyages and had good luck at some track again we stopped at Prunier's on the way home, going in to sit at the bar after looking at the clearly priced wonders in the window. We had oysters and crab mexicane with glasses of Sancerre."

Mâcon in the chapter Scott Fitzgerald, "We had a marvellous lunch from the hotel at Lyon, an excellent truffled roast chicken, delicious bread and white Mâcon wine and Scott was very happy when we drank the white Maconnais at each of our stops. At Mâcon I had bought four more bottles of excellent wine which I uncorked as we needed them."

Corsican from With Pascin at the Dôme, "At home, over the sawmill, we had a Corsican wine that had a great authority and a low price. It was a very Corsican wine and you could dilute it by half with water and still receive its message."

Cahors fromWith Pascin at the Dôme, "At the Negre de Toulouse we drank the good Cahors wine from the quarter, the half or the full carafe, usually diluting it about one-third with water...In Paris, then, you could live very well on almost nothing and by skipping meals occasionally and never buying any new clothes, you could save and have luxuries."

Short Story: Taste by Roald Dahl and a bottle of Chateau Branaire-Ducru

Delve into Dahl's humorous account of a blind wine tasting over dinner in London, where the stakes are high, and the twist at the end proves how a sneaky peek at the label can change everything. Enjoy this witty tale with a bottle of Chateau Branaire-Ducru from St. Julien in Bordeaux and see if you agree with the tasting descriptions.

Cheers to the perfect pairing of wine and literature!



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