Wine in Fiction
Besides the fascinating history of winemaking and countless stories associated with its illustrious traditions, wine has remained an integral part of global literature since the era of the legendary 8th-century-BC poet Homer. Likewise, the Greek tradition of great philosophical debates is filled with many stories of wine during long symposiums set up in Athens in the 6th century BC.
The great Greek philosopher, Socrates, was a big fan of the Greek god of wine – Bacchus. Although his renowned adherent, Plato, would refrain from using intoxicating beverages like wine, many Greek authors and poets of that era wrote countless encomiums to praise wines’ health-specific and innovative features. Since the times of the Roman and Greek Empires in European regions, the precedent set by these great thinkers, authors, and poets to use wine in fiction continues to date.
Many great names, including Shakespeare, W.B. Yeats, Emily Dickinson, P.B. Shelly, etc., produced masterpiece poems and other artworks to leave unforgettable impressions in their fans by associating their literary works with wine.
Vineyards and Perfect Setting for Fiction
However, the colorful and picturesque settings that the winemaking process, vineyards, and grapevine offer have helped create many intriguing novels and stories. Some of them are totally based on fiction, while others have been written based on real-life stories and events. When we ponder a tale surrounding wine, we primarily imagine straggling vineyards, cool breezes, sunny climates, and vast green hilltops. Moreover, the tastes they produce and the sceneries they offer are not the only characteristics of these exceptional settings.
Many historical events and enigmas behind these scenes are unearthed through profound observations and penned in fiction books. The diversity of many fictional masterpieces is impressive, which ranges from the success stories of complex societal competition among elite winemakers to the survival tales of French vintners during the 2nd World War. This article summarizes some of the fictional works involving wine.
Therefore, it would be better for the reader to switch off their TV, dissociate themselves from their favorite social media platforms for a few hours, and read one or more of these classic books about wine. To add to your amusement, you could pour your favorite wine into a goblet while reading one of these books.
Famous Novels and Books related to Wine
We start with one of the recent ones: The Lost Vintage by Ann Mah. The novel revolves around the story of Kate – a US-based sommelier looking to take a wine exam – who visits her cousins in Burgundy, France. The family of Kate’s cousins is financially struggling to keep up their vineyards and wine business. One day, Kate finds a secret cellar filled with rare wine bottles in the basement of her cousins’ mansion from the times of German occupation of France during the Second World War.
These bottles and cellar could conveniently solve the family’s financial issues, but Kate also finds a diary of her great aunt. The book nicely intertwines the struggles of her great aunt and the miserable life of French locals during the Nazi occupation and the resistance movement followed by the worst oppression.
The Billionaire’s Vinegar is a book by Benjamin Wallace that describes the tale of American president Thomas Jefferson’s famous wine bottle from 1787 – Chateau Lafite Bordeaux. According to some estimates, the bottle was sold for more than 0.156 million dollars in 1985. However, there remained a big question mark over the integrity and authenticity of the bottle, especially considering the long duration between 1787 and 1985.
The author tries to unveil the mysteries behind various theories regarding the bottle, including its preservation in a Paris cellar or an underground Nazi dugout. The book includes many interviews with vintners, collectors, and wine experts.
Another exciting book with a fictional story revolving around a vineyard is Peter Mayle’s famous novel published in 2004 – i.e., A Good Year. The novel’s story is about the protagonist, Max Skinner, in the backdrop of the southeastern French city of Provence.
He is portrayed as a struggling stockbroker in England who loses his job and explores that his deceased uncle had left a sizeable vineyard for him in his inheritance. Therefore, he travels to the countryside in France to take care of his vineyard, only to find that it is in a desolate state. To add fuel to his misery, he also sees another guy with a claim over the property. The novel became so famous that it was adapted into a Hollywood movie of the same name, starring the Oscar-winning actor Russel Crowe.
Alan Tardi’s 2006 memoir, Romancing the Vine, is his journey to the Italian winemaking region of Piedmont, which is renowned for the Barolo varieties of wine. During his long journey, Tardi records more than twenty winemaking recipes from various parts of the Piedmont region.
In 2021, Susan Mallery published a New York bestselling novel – The Vineyard at Painted Moon. It is a story of a lady protagonist, Mackenzie, who is recently married to an opulent family living at a winery. She becomes so involved in her job at the vineyard that when she cannot sustain her married, she does not want to leave the job and the family. At the crossroads of her life, she has to decide whether to stay or leave the place.
Vintage is an exciting novel penned by David Baker in 2015. This famous novel tells us the story of Bruno Tannenbaum, who is an American writer in a Chicago-based newspaper. His personal and professional life is messed up due to drinking, and he leaves his wife and faces challenges in writing any innovative stuff. Then Bruno explores that an expensive bottle of French wine was smuggled out of Paris during the Second World War, and he decides to find its traces and whereabouts and write about his experiences to revive his professional career with his newspaper.
Subsequently, he enters a notorious Russian underworld in Moscow and faces the most significant challenges with different gangsters. The novel is particularly famous for its accounts of food and wine hilariously described by Bruno. After his successful novel, David Baker also directed an American movie about winemaking in the US –American Wine Story.
A classic novel, The Winemakers, was published by Jan Moran. It is the story of Caterina and her mother, Eva. Their primary business is winemaking through their family winery. The family is marred with multiple secrets related to Eva’s deceased husband and Caterina’s illicit child from her secret lover she met on her trip to Italy. Her primary cause of anxiety is that if all the secrets about her family are out, they might totally destroy her life.
Also read: The Origins of 5 Different Wine Traditions from around the World