Get a bunch of book nerds, put them in a room and have them defend a book they are passionate about. Sound boring? Well, it’s anything but.
In its relatively short existence, CBC’s Canada Reads has become a literary institution while making it “hip to be square” by reading books… Canadian books. Each year, five books are chosen to compete and each is championed by a well-known personality. Active, passionate, often combative debate ensues leading to books being progressively “voted off the island” until a single winner remains, earning the distinction as the book Canada should read. The premise is brilliant. It promotes reading by involving personalities in an intelligent, articulate, yet entertaining and un-stuffy game show-like format.
In February, my good friend, renowned food writer and all around smart person, Jennifer Cockrall-King, in conjunction with the Literary Saloon, a “highly eclectic reading series” in Edmonton, asked me to pair each of the Canada Reads nominated books with an appropriate wine selection. Wine and books? Why not? After all, there is a wine that goes with everything.
I actually saw many parallels between the concept of Canada Reads and my philosophy on wine. Canada Reads has book geeks espousing the virtues of what are often non-mainstream books, while wine geeks espouse the virtues of non-commercial wines. I welcomed the opportunity to bring the two together.
I asked respected bookseller Laurie Greenwood to summarize the feel of each of the nominated books. I, in turn, paired the wines. We all worked up quite a thirst. As Jenn so eloquently put it, “Drinking and books — it just doesn’t get any better.”
GOOD TO A FAULT by Marina Endicott
I think of this book as a sweet thing. At its heart is the complicated issue of why we try to help people, for altruism or for our own reasons. Jolted out of a life of the same old thing, our heroine finds herself taking in a family and becoming extremely attached to the new liveliness of her life. It is a book you could give to your grandma and she’d like it.
Fabiano Valpolicella Classico Superiore Ripassato ‘Negraro’ 2006, Veneto, Italy ($26.99)
Juicy cherry flavours with hints of raisin, plum, and fig created by refermenting the Valpolicella juice on the lees of the Amarone (which, incidentally, was originally created by mistake … a wrong turn if you will — read the book and you’ll get it). Soft, approachable and uplifting. Grandma’s sure to love it.
GENERATION X by Douglas Coupland
What can I say about a book whose title has become part of our lexicon? Its innovative form (drawings & “inserts”) and vivid descriptions of a new generation of youth made this an enormous bestseller 25 years ago, and it was both political and satirical in nature.
Small Gully Shiraz ‘The Formula’ 2006, South Australia ($25)
Ripe and focused, offering a polished mouthful of liquorice, blackberry, and chocolate flavours that persists on the finish. The wine could fall into the mass of generic Aussie produced Shiraz, but instead, it is quite unique and distinct.
THE JADE PEONY by Wayson Choy
A beautifully written historical novel about the first Chinese immigrants to Vancouver and the creation of Chinatown, the book sways back and forth between the ways of the older generation and the desire for change in a new country as seen through the eyes of three children.
JoieFarm A Noble Blend 2008, Okanagan BC ($35)
An aromatic blend of Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, Pinot Auxerrois, and Riesling highlighting lychee and spice with flavours of citrus peel, grapefruit, peach, and clove with a fresh, firm acidity and focused, lingering finish. Alsace meets the Okanagan…Old World meets New World…like the book…and a great match with Chinese food.
NIKOLSKI by Nicolas Dickner
This is a masterly woven tapestry of three young individuals who all leave home seeking their future and end up in Montreal. We follow them over the next decade as their paths almost cross, unaware of a family connection. The book is about secrets, family and the place we call home.
Black Lagoon Chardonnay 2006, Languedoc France ($17.99)
Ripe peach, apple, and melon flavours. The secret to the wine’s freshness is picking the grapes in the cool of the night. The owners travel the world looking for the best vineyards to call home.
FALL ON YOUR KNEES by Anne Marie MacDonald
A dark family saga that twists and turns and keeps the reader enthralled, it looks at one family in Cape Breton and the dysfunction that’s hidden in its soul. A marriage between a Scot and his 13-year-old Lebanese bride kicks things off and they just get worse from there. Did I mention it’s dark?
Renwood Old Vines Zinfandel 2005, Amador County USA ($48)
Aromas of spice and cedar, flavours of ripe dark wild berries, white pepper, great structure, rich, dark, textured, spicy, bold, and vibrant. Did I say dark?
Book descriptions by Laurie Greenwood.