Wednesday, May 29, 2013


What Goes With Your High School Reading List?

All this fervor over The Great Gatsby got me thinking about what you might drink while revisiting your high school syllabus.  Dust off those old paperbacks. Nostalgia is always better with booze.

The obvious thing to pair with Gatsby is something like a Tom Collins, or an historically accurate Champagne the characters would have swilled at raucous parties.  But we’re a little more interesting than that.  There’s no better way to be borne back ceaselessly into the past than with Madeira—the stuff lasts forever, just like the secrets from your past.  Even at a century or two old, they can still feel zingy and alive.  A favorite in colonial America, Madeira is slowly making a well-deserved comeback.  Look for Sercial or Verdelho if you want something more tart and dry, and Boal, Malmsey, or phrases like "fine rich" on the label for something with toasty, roasty coffee and chocolate notes that can go with dessert or be a delicious dessert by itself.

A bonus pairing for Fitzgerald fans who have gone beyond the required reading: Provencal rose for Tender is the Night.  It's my personal favorite Fitzgerald novel and my favorite style of rose. Provencal has a pale, gorgeous color that won’t stain the white linen pants you’re wearing as you gaze into the blue, blue Mediterranean.  Your life may be a mess, but goddamn, you look glamorous in those imperceptibly-stained white linen pants. 

To Kill a Mockingbird calls for something classic, American, stalwart and true.  Much as I like to poke fun at Napa Cabernets, this style became popular for a reason – because when they’re good, they’re really, really good.  I doubt Harper Lee would approve of the over-oaked, shoved-into-a-Wonderbra style that’s popular these days – she’d want to kick it old school with something like Mayacamas.  They’re also one of only a handful of California wineries that keeps a deep library of back vintages and occasionally sells them for prices that, while certainly not cheap, aren’t quite at oil-baron-in-Dubai levels.

Is it just me, or does The Catcher In The Rye really not hold up as an adult?  As a 14-year-old, I had the same kind of crush on Holden that I did on Daria’s Trent.  (Don’t lie, you did, too—I don’t care that he was a cartoon character!)  As an adult—ugh, what a drag!  Anyway, you might as well pull out Franny and Zooey, Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters, and re-watch The Royal Tennenbaums while you’re at it.  That scene with Gwyneth in the bathtub is so perfectly Glass family-esque, isn’t it?  If that whole crew was around today and liked wine, they’d probably dig cheap, but honestly made Cotes-du-Rhone.  Not as heavy as a straight Syrah (it’s usually used as a supporting player to Grenache’s starring role in these blends), a good CDR goes with everything from roast chicken to hanger steak to whatever vegetarian concoction with quinoa and mushrooms you want to dream up.  Good ones can be found for $7-12, and some of the ones that come in a bag-in-box are pretty good, too, especially if you want to invite your friends over and scrawl notes to each other on the bathroom mirror in soap like Boo Boo, not that I ever did anything like that in high school.

Once, in the 11th grade, we got a choose-your-own book report assignment, and I chose Lolita.  Our choices were supposedly approved by the teacher, but he must have forgotten that he signed off, because as I brought out my poster and started talking, I watched the color drain from his face.  No matter that I mostly talked about Nabokov’s longtime love of butterfly collecting and barely mentioned the naughty bits—the mere fact that I’d read this book apparently made me a bad influence.  Cru Beaujolais (not Nouveau!) is the perfect accompaniment to this near-perfect novel.  On the surface, the good ones will be full of fresh, seductive, just-ripe fruit, but they reward delving and revisiting after a couple of years.  

For Lord of the Flies, you’ll need something feral and wild, and, sure, something that goes with pork barbecue.  The wines of Carema, the part of Northern Italy that grows Nebbiolo but isn’t as famous as Barolo or Barbaresco, are just the ticket. Ferrando, one of only two producers in this marginal wine region whose landscape makes you wonder who the heck decided to try and grow grapes there, makes fragrant, delicious Nebbiolo with just the right amount of rusticity that would be perfect with spit-roasted boar.

I know you all have book-and-beverage pairings that will put mine to shame. Let's hear them.

Previously: What Goes With Your Spring Crush?

Photo via michael_barker/flickr.

Diane McMartin is a Certified Sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers and a graduate of a fancy-pants wine and beverage education program in St. Helena, CA. This required many flashcards and a lot of coffee. She lives in the Washington, DC area, where she works in retail teaching wine education classes, helping customers find the perfect wine, and wading through the seemingly endless ocean of bad Chardonnay out there. 

56 Comments / Post A Comment


Hello psychic hairpin, I started reading Tender is the Night yesterday and I think provencal rose will enhance it. Or go all out with some prosecco. For literary reasons, of course ...


@teaandcakeordeath I love that book! I've read it at least 3 times. Perfect book to read while drinking and sitting on a beach somewhere. Or just drinking on a summer afternoon.



In college, I took an afternoon off from [drowning in] my English BA to read Tamora Pierce and drink a bottle of Boone's Farm through a crazy straw, which is...pretty much the opposite of this article.


@LilRedCorvette Love me some Tamora Pierce! Woo fantasy lyfe 4 eva.


This was brilliant!@j


Your life may be a mess, but goddamn, you look glamorous in those imperceptibly-stained white linen pants. This is what keeps me coming back.

phlox lombardi

@frigwiggin Thank you!!


"over-oaked, shoved-into-a-Wonderbra style" Sweet fancy Moses, I love these posts. Diane, I just want you to follow me around and tell me what to drink always.


What goes with reading nothing but Harry Potter and pulpy detective mysteries all summer long?

J Walter Weatherman

@par_parenthese Yeah, what goes with Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, some Kathy Reichs novels, and those weird sci-fi paperbacks I picked up for a dime each at the secondhand bookstore?

phlox lombardi

@par_parenthese Well, it IS kind of my job!

Everyone should feel free to ask any burning wine/beverage questions. Maybe I could do an advice column, too!

phlox lombardi

@par_parenthese White sangria. Basil, mint, peaches, and an 'aromatic' base wine like Riesling or Sauvignon Blanc (very different, but will create an equally delightful drink), perhaps a dash of some kind of sweeter, fancy liqueur. Delicious, fun, and can be drunk over ice so it stays cold for long afternoons on the deck or beach.

Laughable Walrus

@phlox lombardi I am so making this.


@phlox lombardi


@par_parenthese I, too, am totally making this.

Laughable Walrus

@gtrachel I will, naturally, be reading the recommended pairing of YA novels, mysteries, and sci-fi (or maybe one YA sci-fi mystery??) while drinking this, just to get the full experience. Boozy 'Pin Book Club time?

OH OH WHAT IF I freeze the peaches instead of putting it over ice?? Did I just get unreasonably excited about that idea? (Yes.)

phlox lombardi

@Laughable Walrus Oooh, freezing the peaches sounds delicious! Dooo it!


@phlox lombardi Okay, I pride myself on my lethal but OMG delicious red sangria, but this white sangria just sounds perfect.


Oh, I'm just so happy someone knows what a Tom Collins is. They are my fiance's favorite, and he is constantly telling bartenders how to make them.


@bowtiesarecool I have been served an Arnold Palmer before when I've asked for a Tom Collins. I was so confused.

J Walter Weatherman

@Scandyhoovian What about a half Tom Collins, half Arnold Palmer? (Called a Tom Arnold, obviously.)


I love this feature so so much. Diane, come hang out in DC with me and you can pick out wines for me to buy. (WHAT GOES WITH MY WEEKEND VACATION READING)

phlox lombardi

@robotosaur DONE!

Seriously though, I'm always up for hanging out with other 'Pinners! Feel free to Facebook me :)


@phlox lombardi Be careful what you wish for. We have several excellent wine stores in my neighborhood at least! (Funny story--they only neighborhood sales people who ever recognize me are the local liquor vendors...)

phlox lombardi

@robotosaur Now I'm curious what neighborhood! There are some great stores in DC, plus looser blue laws which makes their pricing better for certain types of wine.


@phlox lombardi Responding late, but Cleveland Park--I'm counting all of the Connecticut corridor as my neighborhood, but two of the good stores, Weygandt and Cleveland Park Wine and Spirits, are right down the street from my building.


Tequila Mockingbird


Any of Annie Dillard's writings (I'd recommend "Pilgrim At Tinker Creek," it was my high school summer reading back in the day) would go well with a nice, hoppy, craft IPA. Perhaps Dogfish Head or the ever-popular Harpoon. Flowery, delicate, but with a sharp, incisive bite. A contemporary classic.


Oh god I remember reading Lolita when I was 14. I would sit on the bench during lunch with the cover very obviously propped up so everyone could see how edgy I was being. (I probably understood about 20% of it at the time, and after rereading it twice since, it's still one of my all time favorites).

phlox lombardi

@emmab I read lots of books before I fully understood them, and I think it's good for you. Beautiful language, whether you understand all of its nuances, worms its way into your brain and makes you a better writer/human.


I also think that "Heart of Darkness" would pair well with a deep, malty porter, served slightly less-than-cold, conjuring up the heavy humidity of the Congo.


No, no, I think with HoD you have to drink something that makes it obvious how much you hate yourself.

Which calls for Campari, naturally.

phlox lombardi

@PatatasBravas Or Fernet Branca...


Whenever Nicole (*sob*) posted a book post, I'd open up my Goodreads since I knew I'd have stuff to add to my Want To Read shelf, I open up my list of movies to find when AHP posts a Scandals, and now I open the product list for the liquor store every time one of these comes up.


I am pretty sure a sidecar would go with all of these.

Maybe not Lord of the Flies. But maybe. I never read it, so I dunno.


@Lucienne I think there's a drink out there that pairs with "never having read Lord of the Flies and feeling no compulsion to rectify that". We could meet up and finish a pitcher of whatever that drink is?


@MashaNigel I think that drink is a sidecar. I'll meet you at the top of the Empire State Building at noon with a pitcher! There's probably a more LotF-appropriate location, but I never read it and, now, never will.

(I just haven't had a sidecar in a while and miss them.)


Due to a combination of moving and dual enrollment I managed to escape high school with the following reading list:

As I Lay Dying
Julius Caesar
The Man Who Was Thursday

Some times I dream of alternate world where I watched wishbone as a kid grew up playing uno and read Catcher in the Rye and To Kill a Mockingbird.


I started to read Jacques Del Launay`s historical books since high school, I liked history a lot and his books explained very detailed major events that took place in the latest century. I read his last book when I was studying at the Northwestern State University of Louisiana, he will release his next book in January and I can`t wait to read it.


I love this concept (wine-pairing for an activity where I do frequently drink alcohol!) and would love more of this!!
but, whoa, madeira is for Dickens, isn't it, not Fitzgerald? Or Gaskell? Rosé sounds perfect for Fitzgerald -- fabulous and delicious when dry, but wavering on the edge and with potential for badness if it gets too preciously sweet.

phlox lombardi

@harebell The Gatsby pairing was a bit of a reach, I admit. I'd just gone to a Madeira seminar and was seduced ;)





Lumpy Space Princess

never stop posting these. NEVER.
Can you do pairings for crazy/smart/interesting film directors? Like, I know that would be a lot of movie watching, but I need to know what to drink while watching Jodorowsky, Antonioni, Cronenberg (early stuff), and Cronenberg (late stuff [lol just kidding I hate that stuff]). Maybe you should team up with AHP for this assignment!!!
k thx : )

phlox lombardi

@Lumpy Space Princess Great idea, and would force me to watch more/better movies!


@Lumpy Space Princess For Antonioni, drink Ramazzotti.

Julia duMais


Alternately, what should I bring to the DC 'Pinner book club's meeting for Valley of the Dolls next month/what should I drink while reading it?


@Julia duMais Pimm's Cup for CCF! I don't even like Pimm's Cups, but they are obviously the right thing.

phlox lombardi

@Julia duMais We can collaborate - love the choice for this month. It's perfect for summer!

George Templeton Strong

Shouldn't To Kill a Mockingbird be paired with bourbon and branch? (Same with Glass Menagerie.) For Valley of the Dolls I personally would start drinking white wine upon waking (something to wash down the dolls) and then around cocktail hour (say, 2 PM) switch over to martinis, if your hands are steady enough to make them, or maybe scotch, and maybe scotch drunk straight from the bottle, because who needs more glasses to clean up?


Ultimate column: What goes with + Ask a clean person. I am moving, and moving requires a certain kind of cleaning. You know the kind, I'm sure! It's the "buy-Easy Off-and-clean-the-inside-of-the-oven" kind of cleaning. The "I-never-knew-the-fridge-drawers-could-move" kind of cleaning. The "holy-shit-is-that-a-giant-hairball-made-of-pubes-behind-the-toilet?" kind of cleaning. So I ask, what's the perfect pairing?! Because I need it.

cruel shoes

@cocokins I've always thought of moving related cleaning as crime-scene level, don't leave DNA evidence behind cleaning. And yes, beverage pairing suggestions would be helpful, preferably the boozy caffeine powered kind.

phlox lombardi

@cruel shoes I think you're on the right track. Perhaps spiked iced coffee? I'm thinking iced coffee concentrate a la today's iced coffee post, a little sweetened condensed milk to give it that Vietnamese iced coffee vibe, a little half and half, and the sweet, nutty/dessert-y booze of your choice. Amaretto could work if it's a decent brand, but that Italian sweet/bitter walnut liqueur would be really fantastic.


@phlox lombardi As a big fan of amaretto, any opportunity to use it is a good one, in my world. Thanks!


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