A Poetic Wine Pairing

I've been given free rein today and with it I've taken a dramatic new direction and paired a wine with a poem. Yes, a poem. It's not just any poem, but a famous contemporary poem by Anne Carson called The Glass Essay. It's classified as a lyric essay—an essay written with creative license and dressed up with language and line breaks. Carson is among the genre's most revered writers. If you're familiar with The Glass Essay, you'll know it's a long read; you'll have time for at least two glasses of wine.

In the poem, Carson's narrator, who has just been left by her lover, visits her elderly mother. Throughout her visit, she reflects on Emily Brontë, her book Wuthering Heights, and some of the mysteries of Brontë's short life (the narrator feels like she is turning into Brontë when she visits her mother). The language is simple and stark and the emotion is detached. Themes of loss, sex, aging, deterioration, and death are woven into the poem. The mood is like a walk on the thawing moor in April (or an equivalent landscape), it's chilling, bleak and lonely.

Here's the part where you're going to have to take a leap if we're going to make this work. The entire poem's imagery feels like it chisels at something cold and stark. A lavish or ostentatious wine wouldn't do. It's quiet, but sincere; it would never tell you how to feel. It's contemplative and, at times, anxious. It wants precision, acidity, something lean and sinewy, something nervy.

This description sounds much like a great bottle of Sancerre, and few, if any, make Sancerre that equals the wines of François Cotat. When drunk young, his bottling 'Les Monts Damnés' has searing, unforgiving acidity. It's a wine of tension, of flint and stones, citrus rinds, and if you're looking for it, immeasurable depth and complexity.

If you don't have access to the rare and expensive wines of Cotat, check out Creekside Estates' fresh and vibrant 2013 Sauvignon Blanc, a restrained fruit-driven style (think grapefruit and grass). You can't talk about acidity without mentioning Tantalus Vineyards. Their 2013 Riesling has Tantalus' signature minerality and crispness that should also carry you deep into the poem.

I'll leave off from this strange little pairing by quoting Mark Yakich in his essay Reading a Poem: 20 Strategies, "18. The very best way to read a poem is perhaps to be young, intelligent, and slightly drunk. There is no doubt, however, that reading poems in old age cultivates a desire to have read more poems in youth."


Jake Skakun is a writer and sommelier from Vancouver, currently living in Toronto. He can be found most days pulling corks and twisting caps at the Black Hoof. He Tweets and Instagrams @jakeskakun.

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