Themed dinner parties were all the rage in the 1970s (so I’m told), and I’m all for reviving the custom, albeit with a contemporary twist. With the continuing boom in book clubs and sure in the knowledge that words and wine (well, alcohol of almost any description) make fine partners, I’d like to suggest these gustatory pairings for your next literary gathering.
The Light Between Oceans
M L Steadman’s tale of a childless couple living in isolation in a West Australian lighthouse is a heart-breaking one. The description of sea and treacherous surf is so evocative that you can practically smell the salt spray off Cape Naturaliste. It’s the perfect book-club read, with a moral dilemma at its centre that everyone is sure to have an opinion on. Stoke the conversational fires with a Margaret River Chardonnay or Cabernet; try A Voyager Estate Chardy or a Vasse Felix Cabernet, and serve with seafood, and a bittersweet dessert.
The Lover’s Guide to Rome by Mark Lamprell
Think of Rome and of course the wine and food pairing options are numerous. Start with a Campari and soda to get everyone in the mood, and perhaps paper-thin slices of prosciutto, melon and pecorino romano. Alternatively, if your book club loves bubbles (and mine does so much that it’s the name of our club) then a glass of Prosecco is the answer. Australia’s King Valley makes some wonderful examples: try one from Chrismont or Pizzini. Follow this up with a traditional spaghetti alla carbonara made with pancetta, cheese and egg and match it with a crisp Frascati – the wine that is synonymous with Rome – try the Monte Porzio Catone, stocked in Dan Murphy’s, for an easy, enjoyable and delicious drink – much like the book itself.
Barbera… barbaric… the two words aren’t so far apart, and what better to serve when discussing Charlotte Wood’s harrowing, but compelling novel, The Natural Way of Things. If you have the stomach for it, then dish up a rabbit and mushroom casserole (you’ll know what I mean when you’ve read the book) and pour large glasses of this intensely berry-flavoured, acidic, earthy, strong-tannin wine. It will have almost as much impact as the book itself. Try a barbera from Coriole, Michele Chiarlo or Dal Zotto.
Maestra by LS Hilton is the latest red-hot read that’s on many people’s radars – the author’s original agent and publisher refused to have anything to do with it, and it’s certainly dividing readers. It’s sinful, shocking and sexy and I can’t wait to get stuck into it! It sounds like a book that needs to be discussed after a few cocktails – perhaps a beetroot and blood orange margarita might do the trick – and you’ll probably be so enthralled that you’ll forget all about food…
Cheryl Strayed’s raw and beautiful memoir, Wild, is sure to be a hit with book clubs: put it on the list if yours hasn’t yet got around to reading it. The story documents Strayed’s solo walk along the Pacific Crest Trail, from Mexico all the way north to Canada and she tried to make peace with her demons. Strayed walked as far as Oregon, through California, so plump for an Oregon pinot or a Napa Valley cabernet. Non-drinkers can opt for a Snapple – a drink she craved while walking the 1,100 miles of her hike. If you’re brave enough, serve freeze-dried hiking food, or perhaps just some trail bars!