It’s the first day of summer, not that you’d ever recognize it here in southeastern Minnesota where it’s 60 degrees and raining. It’s been a strange year with snow lasting well into April, then the temperature ramping up immediately to 90 degrees, and then summer officially arriving on a day that looks and feels a lot like the first day of the spring we never had. Last week, the first official week of my summer vacation as a teacher, was beautiful. This week, it’s rained four days straight.
While rainy summer weather is not ideal for golfing, running, cycling, patio sitting, sun bathing (in other words, my favorite outdoor summer activities), it is perfect for reading books and sipping wine (in other words, my favorite indoor
summer all the time activities). Though I teach many of the classics during the school year and like to use summer as a chance to dig into some choice books off my own personal reading list, sometimes my summer reading list includes some of the classics, either those that I read once a long time ago and want to revisit, or those that everyone should read at least once in his/her lifetime.
Because reading classic literature should make you feel classy, informed, and worldly, and because drinking good wine should make you feel classy, informed, and worldly, it seems only natural that the two should go together. And truly, whether you’re stranded inside on a rainy day, or you’re free to enjoy the sunshine and a good patio sit, you can’t go wrong when you spend your afternoon with a book and a bottle. So grab a glass, snuggle into your comfy chair, and try a few of these classic pairings to round out your reading and wine lists.
The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald – LaMarca Prosecco
Let’s start with a biggie, and a perennial favorite of those teaching high school literature! In a world of high brow parties and champagne toasts, mysterious millionaire Jay Gatsby broods for his lost love Daisy Buchanan. Though he hosts some of the most lavish parties in the neighborhood, Gatsby rarely participates, a quirk adding to the mystique and rumors that swirl around his persona. Told by the innocent and naive Nick Carraway whose primary goal is initially simply gaining access to Gatsby’s glitzy world, The Great Gatsby explores much deeper themes of passion, obsession, love, idealism, and the American Dream. It’s a title everyone knows, fewer have read, and most will enjoy.
Pair your reading with a glass of LaMarca Prosecco, a sparkling Italian wine that would fit well in the wild world of Gatsby’s parties. It’s all the fizz and bubbles of champagne, with a significantly lower price point, and a large distribution that should make it easy to come by, and reasonable enough to keep on hand not just for afternoon reading, but for your summer dinner parties as well. Notes of apple and apricot add a nice semi-sweetness, making it much more approachable and drinkable than some of the dry varieties that often turn people away from sparkling champagne alternatives. It also pairs well with appetizer and dessert courses, so you may also consider preparing an appropriate snack!
BONUS! Music to put you in the mood for reading: “Chandelier” – Sia, “Royals” – Lourde, “Can-can” – Moulin Rouge soundtrack
The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien – Artezin: Old Vine: Medocino Country
I get it, you saw the movie back when it was the blockbuster event of the year, and it may have even inspired a spur of the moment trip to New Zealand to visit the set and the “real” Middle Earth (This was not a personal impulse buy, but I know five people who have done it!). Still, if you haven’t read the novel, you’re missing out on the richness and complexities that Tolkien wove into his storytelling. Some play out on the big screen. Others are too nuanced and subtle to translate to a screenplay, but they make all the difference in the world to the overall story arch. You probably already know the basic storyline. Sauron loses the “one ring” thousands of years before the novels begin. Bilbo Baggins finds it in The Hobbit. And Frodo Baggins inherits it in The Fellowship of the Ring, trying desperately (and dramatically) over the rest of the books to get to Mordor where the ring can be destroyed. Of course, that summary leaves out A LOT of storytelling, and Tolkien is the master. This was the classic on my summer reading list a few years back, and was well worth the revisit.
Pair your reading with a glass of Artezin: Old Vine: Medicino County. The 2016 vintage is currently available, and it is delicious! Like Tolkien’s storytelling, Zinfandels are often complex. Rich fruit combinations, spice, oak, and earth tones all categorize the Zin. Artezin is no exception. Deep berry aromas greet the first sip, which is rich in notes of cherry, blackberry, and pomegranate. Not too oaky, the finish is complimented with a hint of pepper and the signature “baking spices” that Zinfandel is often described with. It is a “jammy” wine, a term I only just recently heard to describe Zinfandel on the whole! I’ve got a thing for Zin right now (courtesy of my excellent group of friends that just threw the world’s greatest Zin themed dinner party). I’d probably drink it with anything, but I’ll take it with Tolkien for sure!
Gulliver’s Travels – Jonathan Swift – Starborough Sauvignon Blanc
If you want to say you’ve read classic literature, but feel like it’s a chore to actually read classic literature, you need to find more title’s like Gulliver’s Travels, which is good fun to read, and won’t leave you feeling like you’ve slogged through a marathon by just reading a few pages. Gulliver’s Travels is sophisticated in the themes and commentaries it explores, but it’s also just a good old adventure story, and a relatively easy read as each of his adventures is divided into its own distinct part within the entire work. I felt like reading Gulliver’s Travels was like binge watching a TV show. Tune in again and again to see how Gulliver goes awry next. From the tiny Lilliputians, to the giants of Brobdingnag, to pirates, flying islands, and a race of talking horses, Gulliver’s Travels is “light” classic reading for those who might otherwise shy away from heavy classical literature, and a good read in general for anyone to pair a book with their own summer adventures.
Pair your reading with a glass of Starborough Sauvignon Blanc. This is a New Zealand wine, which may have made more sense as a pairing to the aforementioned New Zealand pilgrimages for Lord of the Rings. However, this wine reminds me of being near the water, a fitting experience to take with you on Gulliver’s sailing ship, the Adventure. This crisp and clean white wine is light and refreshing with a flavor profile including lemon, lime, kiwi, and grapefruit. It’s the hints of salt on the nose that remind me of being out in the ocean air. So breathe deep, take a sip, and dive in with Gulliver on his next adventure.
Moby Dick – Herman Melville – Pinot Gris: I honestly can’t really recommend anyone reading Moby Dick. But it was impossible not to use the opportunity to point out that Pinot Gris pairs well with oily fish, which is pretty much what all of Moby Dick is about.
Little Women – Louisa May Alcott – Blackberry Wine: If you actually do this one, I swear it will feel like every time it mentions food or a meal in the book you will assume that blackberry wine is on the table with it. Plus, you just know Jo March was a wino!
And if classic literature isn’t your thing, then pair whatever you’re reading with a rosé because whatever your book choice, you can always rosé all day!