Timing can be everything in the world of books and wine…

It’s been quite a while since I last wrote anything about wine on here – five years in fact since I posted some notes about a favourite Albariño for Stu and Richard’s Spanish Lit Month, which runs every July. My original intention with the blog had been to write a mix of pieces – mostly book reviews (that’s still my primary area of interest, despite the name ‘JacquiWine’), some wine notes, and maybe the occasional book-and-wine match, should the opportunity arise.

Sadly (although maybe not so sadly for many of you!), my wine writing has fallen by the wayside over the past few years, mostly due to a lack of time and motivation on my part to put virtual pen to paper. But when one of my commenters recently enquired if I had any thoughts about posting the occasional wine note in the future, it gave me the push I needed to get back to it – albeit on what is likely to be a rather sporadic basis.

I’m writing this piece in the middle of June – a couple of weeks in advance of the posting date – just as the poppies are in flower, resplendent in red. It’s the time of year when my tastes turn to rosé, the quintessential summer wine, which is often unfairly maligned. There are some very sleek rosés out there these days, mostly from the Mediterranean regions, e.g. the South of France.

June drinking and reading

One of my favourites is The Society’s Corsican Rosé, a delicate salmon pink that I regularly buy from The Wine Society, vintage in, vintage out. The current 2020 edition is a blend of three different grape varieties: 70% Sciaccarellu, which is native to Corsica, 27% Nielluccio, aka Sangiovese in Italy, and 3% Cinsault (also found in Languedoc-Roussillon and the Middle East, to name just two). Etienne Suzzoni produces this rosé at Clos Culombu, one of Corsica’s leading estates, and he always does a great job with it.

(Interestingly, when I last wrote about this wine in 2015, the predominant grape variety was Nielluccio, maybe with a touch of Sciaccarello and Grenache in the blend, too. So, while the producer remains the same, the mix of grape varieties in the wine will change from one vintage to the next with the aim of producing the optimum blend.)

Having taken delivery of a pick-your-own mixed case at the end of May, I opened my first bottle of the 2020 Corsican Rosé a fortnight ago, just in time to accompany some pan-roasted salmon and fennel – always a winning combination for me. On this first tasting, the 2020 vintage seemed a little sharper than those from previous years – more bracing, and with a slight tartness from the crushed berry flavours that were coming through very clearly.

Previously, one of the most appealing aspects of this wine has been the slightly creamy note in the flavour profile – the hint of ‘summer pudding with cream’ which serves as a foil for the acidity in the fruit. This particular note wasn’t terribly easy to detect in the latest vintage, but I’ve no doubt that it will emerge more strongly over time. The wine just needs a few more months in bottle to settle down, for the flavours to knit together and integrate more completely. It’s at that ‘awkward teenager’ stage at the moment, in the midst of transitioning to an adult with most of its rough edges smoothed out. Luckily, I have another two or three bottles in the wine rack, happily lying in wait for some point in the future.

This experience with the Corsican Rosé got me thinking more broadly about the question of timing – not just for wine but for books too.

Wine is a ‘living’ thing, something that will develop and evolve over time, which means we have to be mindful of this fact to catch it at the optimum moment. But what about books? Clearly, they don’t evolve in quite the same way as certain foods or wine do – a literary text will remain the same, unless there are pressing reasons for it to be altered or updated. Nevertheless, other things can change, either within us or around us, which may well alter how we respond to books at different points in our lives.

Age is a prominent factor here, coupled with our personal life experiences. There are many books that speak to us directly when we are in our twenties that subsequently fail to engage us later in life and vice versa. Several of us can attest to that, I’m sure.

Our mood or state of mind is another influential factor in the mix. There have been many times over the years when I have returned a book to the TBR pile, purely because it didn’t feel ‘right’ for my mindset at that particular point in time. Some of these books are now firm favourites, novels like David Mitchell’s The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, which I loved on my third attempted reading having stalled a couple of times before.

Societal change can be a significant factor too, prompting many of us to reframe our responses and interpretations to certain books as our tolerance levels shift over time. Attitudes to race, social class, gender and sexuality are just some of the factors that have changed markedly in the last 50 years alone, never mind the previous century. Simon Thomas at Stuck in a Book recently posted an excellent piece on whether offensive books should be reissued, which tackles these issues head-on. Do take a look if you haven’t read it yet, particularly as the discussion around various points has been fascinating to observe.

Anyway, I should wrap up now before I grossly outstay my welcome. Experience tells me that I need to leave my Corsican Rosé till September (at the very earliest) before trying another bottle. Hopefully, it will have settled down somewhat by then, and I can enjoy a glass or two as part of a balmy Indian Summer. Fingers crossed on both fronts, for the weather and the wine.

30 thoughts on “Timing can be everything in the world of books and wine…

  1. MarinaSofia

    So, so true! About both wines and books. I do enjoy a rose in summer, although I tend to stick to my Provence ones. I’m so glad you’re back to occasional wine posts, as I do love to discuss and taste wine!

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Thank you! It feels good to be writing about wine again after such a long absence, even if these posts end up being somewhat sporadic. I’m very much a fan of the Provencal rosés too as they tend to be quite similar to this Corsican one – pale and delicate in style vs the brasher fruit-forward equivalents from various other regions. There are a couple of rosés from Provence in my mixed case, so hopefully I’ll be able to write about one of those later this summer!

      Reply
  2. A Life in Books

    I first fell in love with rose on a short break in Nice several years ago and have enjoyed the Wine Society’s Corsican version. Perhaps my bottles had already settled down!

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Ah, that’s a great setting for a good rosé, preferably with a proper salad Niçoise as an accompaniment. Lovely!
      Maybe your Corsicans have settled down a bit quicker than mine, that’s if they’re the same vintage. Now I’m wondering if this year’s blend might be somewhat different from those in previous years (more so than usual). I’ll have to see if I’ve kept my old wine notes for reference!

      Reply
        1. JacquiWine Post author

          Lovely. I found some notes for the 2018 vintage (which I loved) that say “the 2018 blend is sciaccarellu dominant as it was so successful in this vintage”. So, this suggests it was reasonably similar to the current vintage (2020). Hopefully this will settle down over the next few months with some more time in bottle!

          Reply
  3. madamebibilophile

    Just yesterday I was saying to a friend I think rose can be unfairly looked down on, but I don’t know enough about wine to stick up for it! The Corsican blend sounds really interesting – fingers crossed it will settle for a lovely late summer drink.

    And totally agree timing is all – there are some writers I’m returning to now, having not enjoyed them in my 20s, and I realise it was just the wrong time to read them.

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      I think the general perception of rosé has improved quite significantly in the last 10-15 years, partly due to better availability of good quality rosé wines in the supermarkets and partly due to the efforts of the broadsheet wine writers to tackle the outdated image. It used to be seen as a rather frivolous / ‘girly’ drink – or, possibly worse, as a substandard wine of poor quality. Thankfully, things have improved in recent years, which is good to see. After all, if Pimms is seen as a perfectly acceptable summer drink, then rosé should enjoy that position too!

      Reply
  4. kaggsysbookishramblings

    Always happy to hear you talk about wine – I don’t drink it much nowadays but would probably tend towards a rosé as I often find white a little vinegary and red too much for me! But you’re spot on about timing, particularly about books. From personal experience, I’ve tried a book, not got on with and gone back to it at a later date and loved it (Suite Francaise and Le Grand Meaulnes spring to mind). I know I’ve changed as a reader over the years, and I’m convinced my reactions to e.g. Anna Karenina would have been very different if I’d read it at a younger age. Of course, all this does mean that re-reading an old favourite can have risks attached…

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Ah, that’s very kind of you to say, Karen. And yes, rosé could be a good option for you – or a white wine made from grape varieties with low-medium acidity. Something like Chablis or an unoaked chardonnay might suit – or godello or vermentino. But you should definitely avoid Sauvignon and Pinot Grigio as they’re often very sharp, especially those served by the glass in restaurants!

      As for books, Anna Karenina is a very interesting one to raise. It’s the sort of novel that has lots of different things to offer to readers at various ages. One of these days I hope to go back to it, just to see how my impressions of the characters have changed now that I’m firmly in middle age!

      Reply
  5. Julé Cunningham

    Interesting how much the reputation of rosé has changed, I remember it being thought of as not-quite-a-real-wine. Lovely to read your thoughts on it!

    Fascinating how many things can influence our perception of a book. I tried reading Sarah Waters’ The Paying Guests during a very hot summer and having to it put away because the claustrophobia of the story was too much in that weather.

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Thanks! Funnily enough, some of the best rosé producers in Provence are now attracting high status investors, including leading fashion houses such as Chanel and Louis Vuitton – an indication of just how much the image of rosé has changed! And I can relate to your experience with the Sarah Waters, for sure. As you say, it’s hard to read about something so ‘enclosed’ when the weather is bright and sunny. DNFs are quite a rare for thing for me these days, but I had to put a book aside in April as it was proving too bleak for spring, the season of regeneration and renewal.

      Reply
      1. Julé Cunningham

        Now that’s definitely a sign! There have been a few lovely rosés from vineyards here in Washington and Oregon that we’ve enjoyed and no doubt California is producing a few too. Enjoy your selection!

        Reply
        1. JacquiWine Post author

          Thanks! I’d be interested in trying one or two from Oregon and Washington as I’ve had some lovely pinot noir from those regions. Something to look out for in the future, no doubt!

          Reply
  6. heavenali

    I can’t say I know very much about wine, but I do love rose. It’s lovely to see you writing about wine again, you do so really well. Unfortunately, I don’t drink very much these days, due to the amount of medication I am on, so I really appreciate it when I treat myself to a glass or two. I hope your Corsican wine settles enough for you to properly enjoy it in a few months.
    As for returning to writers at a later date that definitely worked for me with Virginia Woolf. I just wasn’t ready for her in my 20s.

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Ah, thank you, Ali – that’s very kind of you to say. and I hope you have a chance to enjoy the occasional glass of rosé during the summer, maybe as a toast to your new home once you’ve moved in? Virginia Wolf is a good example to quote, very much the kind of writer who will have different things to say to us as various points in our lives.

      Reply
  7. Jane

    A text stays the same is so true and yet every time we take a favourite off the shelf we’re reading a different book aren’t we, it’s all so interesting isn’t it, life and re reading or just reading at the wrong (or right) time. This is the first time I’ve read your wine notes Jacqui and I love it, more please!

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Very interesting indeed, especially for re-reads. While the text itself stays the same, the way we ‘connect’ to the book – what it says to us / what responses it evokes in us etc. — will likely change each time. The Great Gatsby is one of only a handful of books that I’ve revisited more than once, and each time it’s felt like a very different book. Glad to hear you enjoyed the wine notes, Jane – I’ll try to do a few more in the future!

      Reply
  8. BookerTalk

    I like the idea of rose more than the actual experience. Some years ago we were in Provence during a heat wave and rose was absolutely the best drink (it was far too hot for a heavy red which is my usual tipple). But I’ve tried it at home and its never hit the spot again. I’m wondering whether it’s like my experience with vinho verde: best drunk in the place of its origin

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      I do know what you mean about that experience of drinking a wine while on holiday in the local area as the setting and atmosphere add greatly to the enjoyment. That said, there are some very good Provencal rosé wines available to buy in the UK, so maybe it’s worth another try, in the garden on a sunny day? If you have a Waitrose nearby, you might want to try this Mirabeau rosés. It’s not the cheapest, but it’s had received some excellent write-ups from drinkers and wine writers over the years. https://www.waitrose.com/ecom/products/mirabeau-en-provence-classic-rose-france/562833-136381-136382

      Reply
  9. gertloveday

    What would you think of a rose (can’t find the acute on my ipad) made from nebbiolo grapes? My wine man told me the wine had been matured in terracotta barrels. It is a pinkish fawn in colour and quite delicious to my untutored palate.

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      I don’t think I’ve ever had one, but it would be interesting to try! (Made in Australia, I take it?) I’m quite a fan of the Italian red wines made from Nebbiolo, so there’s a good chance it would hit the spot. Sounds like a ‘serious’ / high-end rosé, if you get my drift. Possibly in a similar vein to some of the Bandol rosés made from Mourvèdre…

      Reply
  10. banff1972

    `Great post, J. Timing is everything. I’m always amazed when a book “works” for me on the third or fourth attempt. Interesting that readers change, but drinkers less so. There the wine is changing. I love Provencal roses too, though I find that in the US anyway you have to be careful. Increasingly they seem less dry and minerally, more fruity, presumably to match what people most like.

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Thanks, Dorian! Yes, same here on the book front, but with Jacob de Zoet, somehow I just knew that the third time would be alright. It was very strange, almost as though something fundamental had shifted in my mind.

      That’s a shame about the relatively low availability of the more minerally styles of rosé in the US. I’m not terribly keen on the fruit-forward styles as they’re just too overpowering and brash for me! Hopefully, you’re able to find some decent ones over there, fingers crossed… X

      Reply
  11. buriedinprint

    Your post made me think about a news article in my feed today, about how divers have retrieved various bottles of brew (beer, I believe) from a shipwreck (can’t recall where, but the photo sure had a lot of them in the silt) because, even though the drinks are skunky and undrinkable, the yeasts/bacterial strains are retrievable and expected to create some fine new bevvies in the future. What an art!

    Reply
  12. Dark Puss

    So pleased to read a wine post, please do provide more this reader is most certainly interested to read them. I decided to open a case (wooden, nailed down type) of 2009 St Estephe yesterday to see how it was coming along. A minor property (I can’t afford Cos d’Estournel !) Lilian Ladouys is drinking well and will certainly keep another 7 or so years I would think before it tails off.

    Reply
    1. JacquiWine Post author

      Funnily enough, it was your previous comment that prompted me to return to wine writing, so thank you for the nudge! Your St Estephe sounds lovely, definitely hitting its stride. I often think that these cru bourgeois exceptionnel / cru bourgeois superieur can be very good quality, especially in an excellent vintage such as 2009. Hopefully, you’ll have plenty to look forward to with the remaining bottles in your case!

      Reply

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