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Scott Lax Blog

What Wine and Writing Have in Common

While I can't call myself a connoisseur, I suppose I can say I'm an oenophile - a lover of wine. The protagonist of my new novel is a connoisseur, though, a wine writer who travels from Paris to the South of France, then to Ohio, where he has a dark purpose that is against his nature. In any case, wine plays a significant role in my novel, as a metaphor and in and of itself.

Recently I tasted a French wine, after a few weeks of only tasting Australian, Italian, Chilean and American wines. It was a relief. Not because there aren't wondrous wines of the above-mentioned countries: all of them produce amazing wines, even in my writerly budget's range.

It's simply that, for me, in general, French wines allow their flavors to emerge and be interpreted. There is something I sense (and of course wine is utterly - or almost so - subjective) in many French wines. They emerge; they hint; they whisper. They are the most literary of wines... for me. (Not for everyone, certainly; and if we ever move to Northern California, I will, naturally, take this all back and ingratiate myself to the great vintners of California.)

All of my wine musings mean only this: What I like is for a wine, like a story, to emerge from the bottle or page. I don't want to be smashed (literally and figuratively) over the head with it. I don't want a "big, chewy fruit and sugar bomb" in a wine, or a James Patterson novel in a book. (Though I admire both in other ways - more power to them, both big wines and Patterson, Inc.)

When you write: allow your reader to figure some things out. Not everything, of course, but you don't need to over-explain. One of my teachers told me to "write for smart people." I don't think she meant I.Q. I think she meant to write for real readers - those who wish to think, not merely move their eyes across the page and demand to be entertained.

For me, with wine or words: complexity under the surface of ease of consumption is preferable. If only F. Scott Fitzgerald had stuck to moderate wine consumption and stayed away from the booze... how ironic, if you think about it… for he was the French wine of literature.  Read More