Okay, some hyperbole in this title, but I promise it's deserving. Both this book and this bottle blew. me. away. A book so good I almost missed my train stop, and a rosé that blows all other rosés out of the water. That alone makes them the perfect pairing. But also: Both memoir and rosé get reduced a lot, considered not to have gravitas, of being sort of self-indulgent, or being silly things for women. Both of these defy their stereotypes triumphantly by being deliciously more complex, words and wine to devour hungrily and savor the feeling and flavor of. (Displayed here with the very cool backdrop of all my Goya products, because... wine and books are nourishment? For the mind/soul? Or because there are only 2 places in my apartment with any natural lighting and one is my pantry shelf.)
I used to drink a lot more rosé than I do now. Since I've gotten more into wine, I've found I'm just less interested in it, mostly because the vast majority of wines that are served in bars and restaurants are all kind of the same. They're either from Provence, which are (almost) always dependably good, or perhaps from Long Island if you're in a New York establishment, or else California. All of them are great for a goes-down-easy drink, don't get me wrong—I will never knock summer water. But if I have a chance to order a Loire white, or an Italian one, something more unusual or diverse, I probably will. Because I know what a Provence rose tastes like, and with every glass I order I'm trying to learn something new. As a result, I've been sleeping on buying rosés by the bottle, too. Which is why I was so glad when my fave wineseller at my local natural wine shop, Vine Wine, recommended the Vigo Rosa.
I had been in the mood for a pet nat rosé—that is, a petillant natural rosé, a wine that's bottle fermented and more effervescent (yet not 100% a sparkling). But I knew I wasn't going to finish the bottle that night and didn't want to waste the money on a pet nat that would be flat by the next day. The Vigo Rosa was recommended as a really kick-ass, interesting rosé; described as minerally and acidic, which, yes, I literally can't pass those adjectives up. And it delivered. My first thought was "This tastes like Ocean Spray Cran-Grape juice, which is not not a compliment; I went through this phase in high school where I kept those giant jugs of Cran-Grape juice in my locker and drank it straight from the bottle, like some weirdo sugary fruit juice junky. (Hm. Suddenly my wine obsession makes a lot more sense.) That shit is delicious, and this wine is like that but way lighter, way not sweet—in fact it's not sweet at all—and with some lemony pizazz to make it tart and a little mouth-puckering. I'd never heard of the grape: Nerello Mascalese, a light-bodied red from Mount Etna (the site of some of my favorite wines); that's where the minerality comes from. There's not a lot—it's sort of hard to come by in a rosé—but just a hint to really ground it. I'm obsessed, but I'm also aware that now the bar for rosé has been set so high I will forever be comparing other ones to this.
That is kind of how I feel about Glynnis MacNicol's memoir, No One Tells You This. I knew I was going to be into it when I heard about it. The story of one woman's 40th year, telling how she had feared that birthday, the age when women are deemed suddenly too old, invisible, past their prime, and how when she woke on the morning of it, she realized she no longer felt any of those pressures to "accomplish X by age 40." Throughout the year, she faces significant challenges, notably her mother's failing battle with Parkinson's, and constantly interrogates herself on the supposed big question: To have a kid, or not? To remain independent and happy about it, or to look for a partner? MacNicol has been a single independent woman in New York for most of her adult life, and pretty happy about that. But of course, in our image-driven age when Instagram instantly shows you what you're missing that other people have, it's easy to second-guess your life when faced with others'. My favorite parts are how frank she is about feeling jealousy towards people she sees on her feeds with kids and husbands, how it makes her feel "The husband-sized hole" in her life, but then immediately flip and remember that she knows these people have issues of their own and often covet her independence. As a lover of self-examination, seeing someone write all those thoughts out, the thoughts I'm sure we all have, is really refreshing. Plus, it's an empowering book, in the vein of Rebecca Traister's All The Single Ladies without the academic side. There's a killer section when she's staying with her sister, who is recently divorced and just had a baby, her third child, helping her care for the child. At night, she walks around with the baby so her sister can sleep, and considers, every night, if this is something she's missing.
"I also knew without a doubt that the joy of my life was rooted in my ability to move when I wanted and how. I valued that ability... more than anything. I could hear the arguments in my head, the return of the magazine voices: 'You're going to regret this in ten years. You don't know what you're missing.' Of course...I knew that. There were an endless number of things about my lfie I might end up regretting. But it seemed to me that going through life making decisions on what I might possibly feel in a future that may or may not come about was a bad way to live. I wasn't going to have a baby as an insurance policy against some future remorse I couldn't yet imagine. I had more respect for myself than that. The truth was, no one knows what they're missing in the end. You can only live your own life, and do your best with the outcome when you roll the dice."
She wonders why she doesn't feel this need for a baby, even as she's in love with the one she's holding, and then: "Sitting in the dark and quiet, something quite unexpected occurred. My life, precisely as it was—the product of good and bad decisions—began to come into focus for me. I could see it for the first time as something I'd chosen. Something I'd built intentionally... It dawned on me that I had no wish to escape from it. On the contrary: I wanted it. I was choosing my life. I was willing to risk it."
As someone who's constantly questioning their own life and choices for it (including this same question MacNicol is asking of herself), this was such a wake-up moment. Yes, I have been choosing my life. Day after day. It's not a bunch of happenstance things. It's mine. I made it. And that's powerful to know.
This book is probably the second-best memoir I've read. (No one can top Mary Karr, tbh.) I can't recommend it enough, especially for all women who feel the ageist pressures of our society. And this bottle, well, anyone who likes good wine will like it. And anyone who appreciates interesting wine will be quite impressed with the nuances—who knew a rosé could be so damn good?
Book: No One Tells You This, Glynnis MacNichol.
Bottle: Fattorie Romeo Del Castello Vigo Rosa Rosé Blend. Imported by Louis/Dressner. Purchased at Vine Wine.