The life cycle of the grapevine provides a compelling metaphor for the different stages of human existence, which might explain why it has inspired and informed so many kinds of literature.
Wine and its culture have been powerful creative tools throughout history and our evolution as a society, which needs culture in order to understand itself. Nature is a mirror, and the written word, a reflection. We only need to look to the classics to grasp the importance of wine culture in literature:
Homer's Iliad (800 B.C.) is considered the oldest western literary work on record. Its protagonist, Odysseus, yearns for “the landscape of verdant vines that abound in Ithaca”. In Georgics, Virgil (70 B.C.–19 A.D.), considered Rome's national poet, also left posterity with some sage advice on winegrowing and different types of agricultural work.
Omar Khayyam (Persia 1040–1125) is undoubtedly the poet par excellence, and no one has written more verses dedicated to the vine and its fruit. Speaking of classics, The Ingenious Nobleman Sir Quixote of La Mancha, by the timeless Cervantes, is packed with references to vineyards and wine. It makes sense – after all, La Mancha has always been a winegrowing region.
The tradition continues into the present, and wine-loving bookworms will find plenty of gems in contemporary literature.
In La fuerza de un destino (The force of destiny), published by Planeta, author Martí Gironell (winner of the Ramon Llull prize for best novel in 2018) invites us to discover the extraordinary life of Jean Leon. His personal journey exemplifies the pursuit of the American dream like none other: willpower, determination, a sense of adventure, success and failure. The life of a by now legendary man who has joined the collective imagination of the Wine World.
Cover: La fuerza de un destino by Martí Gironell
Winemaking as an adventure, and a source of salvation and redemption. The Winemaker (Roca Editorial) by Noah Gordon is a love letter to our vineyards and landscapes. A young fugitive from justice – innocent of any crime – returns home to embark on the journey of a lifetime: making good wine. Set amid vineyards and nature, the book is populated by a wealth of intense, strong, deeply human characters.
Cover: The Winemaker by Noah Gordon
La Espada y la Semilla (The sword and the seed) is a well-researched, splendid historical novel by Jordi Nogués, published by Grijalbo. It recounts a key moment in Catalan history following the victory of Ramon Berenguer IV over Al-Muzaffar in Lleida in 1149. During this period, people began to repopulate the lands between the Ebro and Llobregat rivers, an area that became known as Cataluña Nueva (New Catalonia). The book features the castle and fortified farm of Milmanda as a setting, character, and witness to the action. It marks the beginning of a viticultural reconquest that laid the foundation for the region's wine tradition as we know it today.
Cover: La espada y la semilla by Jordi Nogués
A tasting turns into a challenge, with characters as distinctive as they are twisted and cruel. In “Taste”, a short story by Roald Dahl, published in Spain by Nórdica Libros, the author offers us an intimate look at the complexity of human nature. The entire story unfolds in one evening and revolves around a blind tasting.
Cover: “Taste” by Roald Dahl
The list could go on forever, because wine and words, like wine and history, go hand in hand.