Two things I love are literature and wine. Unlike other randomly selected pairs of things I also love, such as hot wings and yoga, opera music and hockey, or having a clean car and never cleaning out my car, wine and literature go perfectly together.
There is the satisfaction of uncorking a new bottle of some delicious wine, and there is a similar satisfaction in cracking open a brand new book. Hearing the cork pop out of the bottle with a sigh of relief, hearing the stiff spine of a book give way to having been opened. In light of this beautiful marriage, I thought I would look into classic literature and find instances of wine being enjoyed by characters.
The first stop would be Ernest Hemingway. Short of actually rolling up his manuscripts and putting them into wine bottles to be sold, he wove libations into his work so thoroughly that the stories themselves have an intoxicating quality. The Sun Also Rises is a story of expatriates in Europe who seem to do little other than drink and attend bullfights. My degree in literature would be revoked if any of my professors ever read that brief and uninspired a summary, so I should mention that it’s a staple in the literary canon for a reason. Hemingway knew his way around a phrase. A book like that is a great escape into a different time and place, if for no other reason than that you never have to be bothered with details like mortgage payments or emptying the dishwasher. Life is all dreamy bullfights and wine.
Another classic that comes to mind is Edgar Allen Poe’s short story “The Cask of Amontillado.” This is a less-than-lighthearted story involving wine, perfect for reading when the power goes out and all you have is a flashlight and a bottle of Merlot. It is the story of classic revenge—Montresor lures the (ironically named) Fortunato into a wine cellar to taste an amazing wine. Montresor chains the easily-lured-by-wine Fortunato to the cellar wall and starts piling on brick and mortar to entomb him. Before he lays the last brick, he throws in a torch. Goodbye, Fortunato and a whole cellar full of fine wine. Goodbye, Montresor’s conscience. Nothing good comes of it, except the foundation for centuries of great American short stories.
In this next novel, the wine reference is subtle, but it’s one of those love scenes to end all love scenes. No Brontë sister will leave us hanging when it comes to forbidden romance, so let’s take a glance at Jane Eyre.
The basic plot is that Mr. Rochester takes Jane in to be a governess to his daughter and then falls in love with her. Jane also falls in love with Mr. Rochester, but knows that he has a wife, so she will not act on that love. The wife is a crazy woman in the attic who has been hidden from society for years, but Jane walks the straight-and-narrow. In short, Rochester and Jane have a heap of issues to deal with in order to fully realize their love.
He put wine to my lips; I tasted it and revived; then I ate something he offered me, and was soon myself. I was in the library — sitting in his chair — he was quite near. "If I could go out of life now, without too sharp a pang, it would be well for me," I thought; "then I should not have to make the effort of cracking my heart-strings in rending them from among Mr. Rochester's. I must leave him, it appears. I do not want to leave him — I cannot leave him."
"How are you now, Jane?"
"Much better, sir; I shall be well soon."
"Taste the wine again, Jane."
I obeyed him; then he put the glass on the table, stood before me, and looked at me attentively. Suddenly he turned away, with an inarticulate exclamation, full of passionate emotion of some kind; he walked fast through the room and came back; he stooped towards me as if to kiss me; but I remembered caresses were now forbidden. I turned my face away and put his aside.
They talk a bit and then he says what every woman longs to hear.
“…Then you are mistaken, and you know nothing about me, and nothing about the sort of love of which I am capable. Every atom of your flesh is as dear to me as my own: in pain and sickness it would still be dear. Your mind is my treasure, and if it were broken, it would be my treasure still: if you raved, my arms should confine you, and not a strait waistcoat — your grasp, even in fury, would have a charm for me: if you flew at me as wildly as that woman did this morning, I should receive you in an embrace, at least as fond as it would be restrictive. I should not shrink from you with disgust as I did from her: in your quiet moments you should have no watcher and no nurse but me; and I could hang over you with untiring tenderness, though you gave me no smile in return; and never weary of gazing into your eyes, though they had no longer a ray of recognition for me.”
You may now sigh and swoon.
Then uncork a bottle, crack the spine of a book. Travel to the bullfights in Pamplona, Spain. Take mental revenge on a foe in a wine cellar. Be Jane Eyre for a night or two and let that romantic man love the crazy you.