New Times,
New Thinking.

  1. Culture
  2. Food & Drink
9 March 2018updated 30 Jun 2021 11:51am

What is wine if not a distillation – and promise – of summer sunshine?

Now is the perfect time to take to the bottle.

By Nina Caplan

After surviving minus 27 degrees during Montreal’s longest cold streak since records began, I wanted two things: a medal, and hot weather. Nevertheless, I surprised myself by enjoying Canadian winter, with its contoured feet of sparkling whiteness, ice rinks in every city park, and those gargantuan trucks, hoovering the roads then dumping tons of snow on the frozen St Lawrence river. The surfaces were icy but interesting and the interiors superbly insulated. And you drink well there, which does wonders for the circulation.

In Quebec and Ontario, they bury winter vines beneath the snow, which protects them until spring. Back in not-quite-as-snowy London, I sought a different style of insulation. Tio Pepe’s Fino Dos Palmas, tangy, elegant sherry that shelters eight years in barrel before emerging, golden as late-afternoon sunshine, into the hot air of Andalusia; and VV, a glorious, rich Roussanne, full of ripe apricots, from Château de Beaucastel in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, where the broad, flat stones called galets roulés capture summer’s heat and warm the old vines’ roots through winter.

With roast beef, I drank the plum and truffle Syrah called Terres Brulées (“burnt earth”) from Jean-Luc Colombo’s steep Cornas vineyards, surrounded by hills that protect the vines from wind as they bathe, soporific, in the heat; with lamb, Siccagno, a powerful blueberry and liquorice Nero d’Avola from the young Sicilian Arianna Occhipinti, whose skin is tanned to the same reddish umber as the soil beneath her vines.

As well as consuming liquid sunshine, I went to the National Gallery to gaze upon it in more viscous form. The calm vistas of Canaletto’s underpopulated Venice and a frugal Goya picnic of bread and wine and sweet sunlight warmed me, while Monet brought summer within stroking distance: on his honeymoon in Trouville, the brand-new Mrs Monet shaded herself with a parasol while fragments of the beach embedded themselves in her husband’s wet painting.

It’s all very well to demand warmth, and in Montreal I felt fierce pity for the early settlers, struggling through those punishing winters so that 400 years later, a thin-blooded wine writer could survive in comfort to complain another day. They probably stared at painted sunshine even more thirstily than I did, and how they would have loved our hot houses and perfectly temperate, multinational wines.

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU

Still, I worry about the point when we find a way to fiddle with the weather as we already do with everything else. Perhaps we already have, inadvertently, for what is global warming but the sinister promise of eternal summer?

Cycles are important. Just as vines need winter warmth and shelter, then heat to create grape sugars that will convert, eventually, to alcohol, so we need to huddle and shiver before the time comes to get sand on our skins (and our paintings), picnic, bask, and underdress. Life is always a balance. Even in summer, nocturnal breezes soothe growing fruit; wintry cellars shield bottled wines, like galets roulés in reverse.

I am glad to be back in moderate climes, looking at art that was made before winter getaways were invented, drinking wine that is itself a celebration of survival and renewal. Winter is almost over and summer is coming, eventually. And we can all drink to that. 

Content from our partners
Peatlands are nature's unsung climate warriors
How the apprenticeship levy helps small businesses to transform their workforce
How to reform the apprenticeship levy

This article appears in the 07 Mar 2018 issue of the New Statesman, The new cold war