Have you ever picked up something (anything) and known that it was kinda supposed to be good but not really knowing what you were in for? That's what happened with both this book and this bottle. By the end of both I was completely floored, and so excited to have a new author and a new style of wine to start nerding out over.
I picked up this Jurançon Sec without knowing much about the style; my wine shop guy recommended it as in a style of things I'd like, and an exceptional bottle at that. The "Sec" was what nabbed me—anything with "dry" in the name is usually a good bet.
It lived up to that label, and then some. The "Chantes de Vignes" is a crisp, wonderful table wine with a nose like a fragrant bunch of mixed herbs fresh from the farmers market. But in an even bigger surprise, it's deliciously not grassy, but rather green fruited—notably lychee and green apple for some sweet + tart action. A little, dare I say it, tropical? It's was sharply acidic, too, and high in alcohol: 13-14%. Very surprising, and very delicious.
Afterwards, I wanted to learn more. (Gonna get a little nerdy here, so skip on down to the book if you're not into learning about obscure grapes.) I came to find out that Domaine Cauhape, the maker of this wine, is a megastar in the southwestern France region of Jurançon, and currently the only producer of a little-grown grape called Camaralet that makes up 40% of this bottle. Peppery, usually high in alcohol, this was where the bite on the end came from. The majority of the wine is Gros Manseng, another not-widely-known southwestern France grape that was traditionally used for sweet wines but is lately used for dry whites; hence all that fruit. IF you can't tell, I'm now very intrigued by both of these, and by Jurançon as a region, and am eagerly awaiting drinking more.
I knew a little more was I was in for with Solnit's book, A Field Guide To Getting Lost, if only because I've been reading Solnit for years. A prolific writer, historian, and activist, and author of the well-known essay and book, Men Explain Things To Me, she's what people mean when they say "a writer for of time." She's incredibly intelligent and well-versed in seemingly every subject, what people used to call "worldly", and her unique voice is even-keeled, though her depth of discussion betrays her enthusiasm about her subjects. I heard about Field Guide at random, but when I looked it up the premise—an exploration of issues of uncertainty, trust, loss, memory, desire, and place—seemed right in line for me, having been ruminating on life's uncertainties as I approach my birthday.
She, of course, delivered, and the resulting essays made me think about not only the many meanings of "lost", but also (in kind of an existential way) about the staggering largeness of the world and how much goes on in it that we don't really understand. It's a lot, but Solnit makes it really approachable. (Promise—I hate philosophy and would never recommend that to you.)
A quote attributed to the philosopher Meno provides an introduction to the book: "How do you go about finding the thing the nature of which is unknown to you?” This is the book's central question, which she explores in a series of autobiographical essays that show what losing your way or yourself ultimately means for finding your way and yourself. She writes: “The things we want are transformative, and we don’t know or only think we know what is on the other side of that transformation. Love, wisdom, grace, inspiration—how do you go about finding these things that are in some ways about extending the boundaries of the self into unknown territory, about becoming someone else?” There’s a lot going on in this small book, and it’s phenomenal food for thought.
Together, this book and this bottle have given me A LOT to contemplate. And I know I'll be referencing both again, over and over, for a long time.