Armchair Travel: Wine Pairing and Books

i bricchi barbera

If you follow me on Instagram, you know that books have been one of my escapes during this super cool pandemic chapter of our lives. For 2022, I started a virtual book club and we had our first call recently to discuss Let Me Tell You What I Mean by Joan Didion. 

It was a lively discussion on parallels of current events and days gone by, the art of writing, and a lot more. But my favorite was inspired by my friend Diana Zahuranec who has written some goodies for us here on Girl’s Gotta Drink. 

Diana likes to pair her reads with wine and I am here for it! Her pairing for Let Me Tell You What I Mean was so right on for me that I asked her to do a little write-up about it and had her spend a little time giving her thoughts on wine pairing and books during our book club. Everyone loved it! 

I’m including her write-up on it here and below that you’ll find details for our February book and the special activity we’ll do for that book club. And please join us for February’s book club (the call is 6 March)!  

Diana inspired me – my pairing pick for Let Me Tell You What I Mean is Scrapa Barbera d’Asti I Bricchi. Something with a little age was perfect – and a more complex, fattier wine seemed ideal. 

Wine Pairing and Books

by Diana Zahuranec

I’ve been asked, “How do you choose which book to read?” I’m a forever fan of libraries. I still recall the exact corner in my town’s library—the pink, historic mansion-turned-Civil War-hospital with drawings by War patients on the walls—where I’d find the eerie books by John Bellairs. The advent of the Kindle and my library Overdrive system sustained me while living in Italy. So normally, I just take a stab at my TBR list and pull whatever’s available at the library. This time, I was glad to have an “assigned” book, pre-chosen, with fellow book lovers to discuss it with!

Let Me Tell You What I Mean

The book club’s inaugural pick Let Me Tell You What I Mean by Joan Didion is intriguingly if frustratingly relevant. A collection of essays spanning 1968-2000, it felt like they were written a week ago. That’s where the frustration comes from: not in the writing itself, which is clear and concise and beautiful, but in the issues from 20+ years ago that remain unresolved today. Then again, maybe Joan Didion was just that far-sighted.

Joan writes, “I have heard conversations among sixteen-year-olds who were exceeded in their skill at manipulative self-promotion only by applicants for large literary grants,” and I immediately think of the rise of social media, self-promotion, and how it’s beginning at ever-younger ages.

She writes about the double-edged backlash + obsession of Martha Stewart, citing a few online comments, and I can insert any female business mogul in her stead and see we are dissecting the same things today:

“Actually, why would any man want to date MS? She is so frigid looking that my television actually gets cold when she’s on.”

Vs.

“She helps me know I’m OK—everyone’s OK….She seems perfect, but she’s not. She’s obsessed. She’s frantic. She’s a control freak beyond my wildest dreams. And that shows me two things: A) no one is perfect and B) there’s a price for everything.”

Wine and Words

When it came time to pair these compelling essays with wine, I chose one that matched the juxtaposition of simple subjects with the complex issues and questions they bring up even now. I chose a Barbera.

Barbera also has two sides to it. The OG Barbera was long seen as Piemonte’s “work-horse” grape, the basic bottle drunk for everyday consumption while the Barolos and Barbarescos were reserved for finer dining. And it does a damn fine job at it. It’s a heartier grape than Nebbiolo yet produces consistently fruity, easy-drinking, fresh reds—and that’s on a bad day. Yet all the while, this workhorse was a…erm…Italian stallion (LOL) hiding in plain sight. Barbera’s quality and profile rose seriously in the 1980s; then in the early 2000s, it became recognized for producing complex reds with the Nizza DOCG appellation. Friendly, approachable, concentrated, complex—Barbera truly has it all!

Michele Chiarlo La Court Nizza Riserva DOCG is a great example of what that Nizza appellation can get you. It has classic Barbera aromas of red fruits like cherry and raspberry, then goes a step further with nuances of cocoa, spices, tobacco, black plum, and other dark fruits. On the palate, it’s well-structured and velvety smooth, with some of that Barbera zing from acidity. It would pair very well with tomato-based pastas and can stand up to hearty meats and aged cheeses, but—personal experience—is a delicious contrast with softer, young, creamy cheeses.

If you’re in the USA, find the closest store to buy it near you with Wine365.com’s retail locater.

Follow Diana’s wine and book pairing adventures on Instagram!

February 2022 Book Club Pick: The Song of Achilles

I discovered Madeline Miller and her Greek Mythology books last February during a quick trip to Rome. My two night jaunt was required for an embassy appointment I had and I just had to do an English book store. I chose to visit Otherwise Bookshop near Piazza Navona. Marcella, the lovely shopkeeper happily gave me suggestions and had insights on my picks.

She pulled Circe from the pile and said it was a must for me as well The Song of Achilles. I begged off, promising I’d have her send me the latter once I got through the first pile. Truth is, I wasn’t convinced I’d like it. Sci-fi has never been my jam. But I was mesmerized by Goddess Circe. Since it was a year ago, I thought it fitting we The Song of Achilles in February 2022; and yes, I ordered it by delivery from Otherwise (Italian friends, Otherwise Book Shop ships for free in Italy with two or more books).

  • February Book: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
  • When: Sunday 6 March
  • Time: 5:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. CET | 10-11:30 a.m. ET | 8-9:30 a.m. PT

Special February Activity: Wine Painting with PurpleRyta

I added an 30 minutes for a special wine painting session with PurpleRyta. We’ll kick off February’s book club by getting creative and using wine to paint. Ryta guides the group through her unique approach to painting with wine with the book as our muse. Then, we’ll move to a discussion using our art.

Painting with Wine by Purple Ryta

In Ryta’s wine painting session, discover and experience her unique wine painting technique, under the guidance of the artist. During the workshop, you use pure wine as a special color on natural paper, respecting the nature of the wine. Wine stains by nature. The wine on paper technique, adopted by PurpleRyta, uses a spontaneous stain of the wine to start the creative process from which the abstract and the figurative come alive. Upon confirming participation, we’ll send you a list of tools and preparation notes. See her work at her site.

Cost:

  • $25 (20 eu)
  • Payment can be made via PayPal by following this link. Note that if you don’t have a PayPal account, payment can be made via the provided link without signing up for an account.

wine painting

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