Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Book of Magic: From Antiquity to the Elightenment with Claret

Just how magical you want this experience to be depends entirely on the wine (which in turn has a lot to do with budget).

The book is one I bought myself as a birthday present because who could resist this blurb?

 "This rich, fascinating anthology of the western magical tradition stretches from its roots in the wizardry of the Old Testament and the rituals of the ancient world, through writers such as Thomas Aquinas, John Milton, John Dee, and Matthew Hopkins, and up to the tangled, arcane beginnings of the scientific revolution. Arranged historically, with commentary, this book includes incantations, charms, curses, Golems, demons and witches, as well as astrology, divination, and alchemy, with some ancient and medieval works which were once viewed as too dangerous even to open."

Obviously I couldn't resist it at all. I see it as a book to dip in and out of, and one that should provide some useful and interesting context when looking at carvings and symbols in medieval churches. It should also fit into a wider interest in folklore, mythology, and fairy tales, though I'm not sure it'll help me answer the age old question of why so many people confessed to witchcraft.

I've chosen Claret (the British term for red wines from Bordeaux) for this book because for all the poetic flights a fine Pinot noir sends people off on, there's no wine I personally prefer to a really good  Claret. When it's a really good Claret it's also best enjoyed either with a like minded wine friend, or the sort of book which will allow you to concentrate on the wine. 'The Book of Magic' is a scrapbook of interesting odds and ends, and as such is easy to break away from, to appreciate what might be in your glass (or have a nap, or make a cup of tea) at regular intervals.

Specifically I see this as a book to go with the best quality claret available to you (or me), and for which I'm thinking in terms of champagne prices. I'm not sure if it was lucky or not that 20 years ago when I was really beginning to find an interest in wine it was possible to buy things like Ch Lynch-Bages at around £25 a bottle (£150 the last time I looked, and way out of my price range), but back then it was claret that I really fell for. It's a love that's lasted. Spend £20 plus and it's still possible to get something interesting, something worth tasting as well as drinking.

The tasting process starts with assessing the colour and clarity of the wine in the glass (colour can indicate both grape varieties and the age of the wine, if it doesn't look clear it may have to much sediment in it, or some more troubling fault, and the viscosity of the 'legs' that form round the fire of the glass indicate the alcohol content. Nosing the wine will tell you first of all if it smells clean (if it smells of wet mouldy cardboard for example, its corked, rotten eggs- to much sulphur, something like sherry means it's oxodised, very little smell and it might need time to breath, and if it's good - warm up a little.) If it smells good the next step is to make a note of what it smells like - this is mostly a way of helping you remember and describe the wine. A good claret will have black fruit aromas (blackberry, black current) and something reminiscent of cedar or cigar boxes and who knows what else in the mix. Most of what we taste is determined by what we smell so it's worth having a good sniff. Then taste the wine, swish it around your mouth, see what the tannins are doing, breath in through the mouth and out through the nose to get an indication of how long the finish is, see if those fruit flavours from the nose come through in the mouth. Think about it all for a few minutes, and then enjoy the rest of the glass.

Tasting (rather than drinking) is fun, even if you feel a bit self conscious about it at first, it helps you get the most out of the bottle in front of you, turns wine into far more than just a drink, and when you have a decent example of the winemakers art in your hands - well, it can be magical.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks.
    I shall purchase The Book of Magic.
    I like the cover. A ripe pear is a treat.
    I can hear the divine Sarah Vaughan singing 'It's Magic' with Billy Eckstine.
    Perfect song. Perfect claret.
    Now if I could only call Annie Ross.
    Jack Haggerty