WINE AND LITERATURE GO HAND IN HAND
“Wine comes in at the mouth/ And love comes in at the eye”
Wine has without a doubt always been one of the silent protagonists of the literary world. Ever since Homer wrote about “a wine-dark sea”, wine has been the inspiration for many stories and poems. Charles Baudelaire spoke of the “soul of wine”, because of its ability to expand the doors of perception. Hemingway loved wine and drank hard, like his heroes. As an expatriate in Paris, he wrote his memoir “A Moveable Feast” where he recalled how he came to realise that in Europe drinking wine was not a sign of snobbery but a sign of sophistication, as “natural as eating”. In Mediterranean culture, people drink wine on a daily basis, and it’s considered, both a solitary ritual and one that communities experience together. To pay proper homage to the best Italian stories and storytellers, I have chosen novels that I think constitute some of the best wine-inspired literature. I hope there is something here for everyone.
The Brotherhood of the Grape, by John Fante (1977). This is almost a bible on the hidden meanings of wine. Henry Molise, a 50-year old, successful writer, returns to his family home to help his aging parents deal with impending divorce. This is a veiled autobiography by the Italo-American Fante, in which we see wine as synonymous with family, country, history, identity. The brotherhood of the grape is about a group of men who gather at the Angelo Masso winery in San Elmo, where the Tuscany red Chianti plays a key role in their meetings. Nick, Henry’s dad, is a despotic figure, who though a weak and alcoholic man, can still strike fear into the hearts of his sons. Don’t forget, Fante is a master at rendering even our darkest fears amusing.
Chianti & Hannibal Lecter “I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice glass of Chianti.” This is one of the most quoted lines in movie history. The words are by Hannibal Lecter - the cannibal serial killer of “The Silence of the Lambs” (based on Thomas Harris’ thriller)- who is talking about dispatching one of his victims. Starling (Jodie Foster) is trying to enter into the mind of the serial killer, a role performed by the great Anthony Hopkins, when he comes out with this disquieting line. Lecter has a fine taste for wine.