It’s time again to deviate from talking about the characters in my forthcoming book Vino Expressions – People, Wine, and Loving Work, and match a book with a bottle of wine.  This pairing is based on two signal events that occurred in the past decade.  The first is our Western involvement in the Middle East; the second is the rise and fall of Australian wines.

As our focus veers away from Afghanistan and Iraq, the Western world increasingly focuses on Pakistan.  Why?  There is wariness of instability.  Some say because this is because this nuclear power borders on nuclear India; others think our enemies might be cozying up in some of the lovely caves out there.

The Book –

Captive – My Time as  Prisoner of the Taliban, by Jere Van Dyk.

Here’s an excerpt from Part One:

“I was on my way to cross the border.

“I would be going to where no Western reporter had gone in years, into the tribal areas of Pakistan, where al-Qaeda and the Taliban were said to be regrouping, and where there was no law except that of Pashtunwali, the ancient, tribal law of the Pashtuns.  I would go to Bajaur and Swat and then down into Waziristan.  No one else was doing this; no one, to my knowledge, had done this in twenty years.  I still had a long way to go.”

[2010.  Times Books, Henry Holt and Company, New York.  Page 13.]

The Wine

A good meaty red wine goes well with this true story.  The book takes us into a world that is devoid of electricity and filled with donkeys, lanterns, riflemen, rocket launchers, barren landscapes, masta curry, black turbans, smoke filled rooms, baked-mud houses, rancid water, trickling streams, goat meat, rope cots, rooster crows, singsong chants and suicide bombers.

Let’s try a wine that comes from far away from all of this, but is a wine that – like rural Pakistan – is a bit unusual, but beautiful.

A bottled beauty from Barossa

Let’s try a Mourvèdre.  In particular, choose a 2006 Mourvèdre from Turkey Flats Vineyards in the Barossa Valley of Australia.  The wine, like the book, is steeped in history: the vineyard was established in 1847.  Like the author, who spent some months captive of the Taliban, this wine spent 18 months in the captivity of an oak barrel.  Okay, that’s a bit of a hokey comparison, but you get the idea: with time and patience, stories – like wines – grow richer.

If you can’t locate a  Mourvèdre, then grab a bottle of Shiraz, tuck into some spicy dinner, and kick back on a couch with an after dinner tiddle of your chosen deep red vino.  Next – open up Captive – or any book about the Middle East that contrasts against the cold snow flurries outside.

Sip, unwind, and take yourself into a different world.  Even if only for a few hours.  The beauty of books is that reading them can be vicarious – taking us to scenes we don’t have the ability to experience ourselves.  The wonder of good wines is they take us – at least for the lifetime of a bottle – to a soil, a climate, and a  particular range of seasons from one specific year that are captured in a glass.  If you blend those variables with the dedicated craft of an even more dedicated winemaker, you’ll get far more than just booze and fruit when you pop that cork.  You’ll get a time and place and character as different from other bottles as any good story is from that told in any other book.

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  1. Don the backpack and don’t forget the corkscrew! Dervla Murphy, move over!

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