Category Archives: Wine Culture

Wine references in literature, drama, film and the arts generally.

What to drink with pork

He [Jack Aubrey] said, ‘What do you say to a glass of Madeira before we go to the gun-room? I believe they have killed their younger pig for us, and Madeira is a capital foundation for pork.’

Madeira did very well as a foundation, burgundy as an accompaniment, and port as a settler; though all would have been better if they had been a little under blood-heat. ‘How long the human frame can withstand this abuse,’ thought Stephen, looking round the table, ‘remains to be seen.’ He was eating biscuit rubbed with garlic himself, and he had drunk thin cold, black coffee, on grounds both of theory and personal practice; but as he looked round the table he was obliged to admit that so far the frames were supporting it tolerably well.

From “HMS Surprise” by Patrick O’Brian

Dinner at Rawlinson End

SIR HENRY: “Help yourself to another glass of Chateau Cholostemy. You know, if I had all the money I’ve spent on drink I’d spend it on drink.”
NARRATOR: “Henry picked his teeth with a fingernail that would not have disgraced a flamenco guitarist. Lady Philippa, herself nicely irrigated with horizontal lubricant, leered appreciatively across at her host.”
PHILIPPA: “Could I have another whisky-and-soda?”
SIR HENRY: “Soda? Never trust anything without a cork in it.”
TARQUIN: “I say, old man, what about good old H2O, then?”
FLORRIE: “Tarquin, dear, Henry detests water: why, he even cleans his teeth in rum!”
NARRATOR: “Faced with the unwanted mockery of a wife, Henry sought instant consolation in the intimate proximity of his one true love – his goblet.”

From the 1980 movie “Sir Henry at Rawlinson End”, screenplay by Vivian Stanshall and Steve Roberts

What is it about Pinot Noir?

Miles: Uh, I don’t know, I don’t know. Um, it’s a hard grape to grow, as you know. Right? It’s uh, it’s thin-skinned, temperamental, ripens early. It’s, you know, it’s not a survivor like Cabernet, which can just grow anywhere and uh, thrive even when it’s neglected. No, Pinot needs constant care and attention. You know? And in fact it can only grow in these really specific, little, tucked away corners of the world. And, and only the most patient and nurturing of growers can do it, really. Only somebody who really takes the time to understand Pinot’s potential can then coax it into its fullest expression. Then, I mean, oh its flavors, they’re just the most haunting and brilliant and thrilling and subtle and … ancient on the planet.

From the 2004 movie “Sideways”, writing credits: Rex Pickett (novel); Alexander Payne & Jim Taylor (screenplay)

Enjoy it while you can …

O’Brien took the decanter by the neck and filled up the glasses with a dark-red liquid. […] Seen from the top the stuff looked almost black, but in the decanter it gleamed like a ruby. It had a sour-sweet smell. He saw Julia pick up her glass and sniff at it with frank curiosity.

‘It is called wine,’ said O’Brien with a faint smile. ‘You will have read about it in books, no doubt. Not much of it gets to the Outer Party, I am afraid.’ […]

Winston took up his glass with a certain eagerness. Wine was a thing he had read and dreamed about. […] it belonged to the vanished, romantic past, the olden time as he liked to call it in his secret thoughts. For some reason he had always thought of wine as having an intensely sweet taste, like that of blackberry jam and an immediate intoxicating effect. Actually, when he came to swallow it, the stuff was distinctly disappointing. The truth was that after years of gin-drinking he could barely taste it. He set down the empty glass.

From “1984” by George Orwell

In praise of fortified wines

He [Dr Johnson] rang the bell violently and, when the landlord was fetched, entered upon a learned disquisition on wines, with the well-thumbed cellar-book of the inn as his text. “Claret we shall not drink, though our host recommends his binns and it is the favourite drink of gentlemen in your country, sir. In winter weather it is too thin, and, even when well warmed, too cold. Nay, at its best it is but a liquor for boys.”

“And for men?” Alastair asked.

“For men port, and for heroes brandy.”

“Then brandy be it.”

“Nay, sir,” he said solemnly. “Brandy on the unheroic, such as I confess myself to be, produces too soon and certainly the effect of drunkenness. Drunkenness I love not, for I am a man accustomed to self-examination, and I am conscious when I am drunk, and that consciousness is painful. Others know not when they are drunk or sober. I know a man, a very worthy bookseller, who is so habitually and equally drunk that even his intimates cannot perceive that he is more sober at one time than another. Besides, my dear lady may summon us to a hand at cartes or to drink tea with her.”

Eventually he ordered a bottle of port, one of old madeira and one of brown sherry, that he might try all three before deciding by which he should abide. Presently Edom was summoned, and on his heels came dinner. It proved to be an excellent meal to which Mr Johnson applied himself with a serious resolution. There was thick hare soup, with all the woods and pastures in its fragrance, and a big dressed pike, caught that morning in the inn stew-pond. This the two Scots did not touch, but Mr Johnson ate of it largely, using his fingers, because, as he said, he was short-sighted and afraid of bones. Then came roast hill mutton, which he highly commended. “Yesterday,” he declared, “we also dined upon mutton – mutton ill-fed, ill-killed, ill-kept and ill-dressed. This is as nutty as venison.” But he reserved his highest commendations for a veal pie, made with plums, which he averred was his favourite delicacy. With the cheese and wheaten cakes which followed he sampled the three bottles and decided for the port. Alastair and Edom were by comparison spare eaters, and had watched with admiration the gallant trencher-work of their companion. For liquor they drank a light rum punch of Alastair’s compounding, while Mr Johnson consumed, in addition to divers glasses of sherry and Madeira, two bottles of rich dark port, dropping a lump of sugar into each glass and stirring it with the butt of a fork.

And all the while he talked, wisely, shrewdly, truculently, and with a gusto comparable to that which he displayed in the business of eating.

From “Midwinter” by John Buchan