Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 21, No. 1, 2022
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Robert J. Lewis
  Senior Editor
Jason McDonald
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David Solway
Louis René Beres
Nick Catalano
Don Dewey
Howard Richler
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Gary Olson
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Andrew Hlavacek
Daniel Charchuk
  Music Editor
Serge Gamache
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Lydia Schrufer
Mady Bourdage
Jerry Prindle
Chantal Levesque Denis Beaumont
Emanuel Pordes
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Richard Rodriguez
Navi Pillay
Ernesto Zedillo
Pico Iyer
Edward Said
Jean Baudrillard
Bill Moyers
Barbara Ehrenreich
Leon Wieseltier
Nayan Chanda
Charles Lewis
John Lavery
Tariq Ali
Michael Albert
Rochelle Gurstein
Alex Waterhouse-Hayward




David Solway is a Canadian poet and essayist (Random Walks). His editorials appear regularly in PJ Media. His monograph, Global Warning: The Trials of an Unsettled Science (Freedom Press Canada) was launched at the National Archives in Ottawa in September, 2012. His latest book is Notes from a Derelict Culture. A CD of his original songs, Partial to Cain, appeared in 2019.

The Acorn TV docuseries The Wine Show, starring the inimitable sommelier and wine merchant Joe Fattorini and a supporting cast of well-known actors, has become enormously popular. The mission was to visit wine-growing regions around the world, collect specimens of the best wines representing the particular traditions and cultures associated with each terroir and locality, and arrive at optimal pairings of vintages with appropriate dishes.

The entire theatrical display is a delight to watch, often tongue-in-cheek, self-mocking, and unfailingly good-humored. Much of what we are witnessing is plainly a scripted performance, down to the very grunts of gustatory approval, and, of course, we never meet a bad or mediocre wine. But Fattorini and his sidekicks also offer detailed instruction in the art and science of viticulture and oenology. The major element in the production involves the mystery of pairings, the marriage of a given wine and a particular serving or course. The knowledge of what goes with what is the very zenith of wine connoisseurship.

I have learned from the maestro that Pinot Noir with its light tannins goes with earthy ingredients like mushrooms and that a funky Pinot will pair exquisitely with roast chicken. A smoky Shiraz partners well with macaroni and cheese dishes, a Riesling neighbors amiably with ham, a Pinot Grigio matches a creamy béchamel, a big Cab complements braised beef with grilled veggies (a Merlot will also do), a not-too oaky Chardonnay flirts provocatively with seafood, especially crab cakes, oysters and shrimp, a Bastianich Vespa Bianco is a great fit with Osso Buco, and a Chianti Classico is a hands-down winner with baked lasagna—my own favorite Classico is the splendid 2018 Tenuta Di Arceno from the Etruscan area. I also appreciate a high Brix Tempranillo with a rack of lamb, a knockout combination that Fattorini & co. somehow missed. Of course, the extent to which such combinations are merely impressionistic is another matter.

The series clearly owes its brand of humor to the hit film Sideways—a dipsy story about wine and love’s redemption—and is obviously based on the gastronomical comedy series The Trip, featuring two British actors Steve Coogan and Rob Bryden, whose Observer-sponsored remit was to sample and write about cuisine in England, Italy, Spain and Greece. We learned nothing about food but were hugely entertained by the hilarious banter, repartee, and celebrity impressions exchanged between the two thespians, who made an excellent pairing, playing, as The Guardian’s Laura Barton writes, “augmented versions of their real-life selves” and occupying “the sweet spot between fiction and reality.” The same is true of the two Matthews (Goode and Rhys) in The Wine Show and to some extent of late addition James Purefoy (not so sure about Dominic West and Amelia Singer), who routinely engage in friendly pairing competitions.

In a recent discussion with one of my advisors at a wine emporium I regularly visit, he confided that wine and food pairings were largely an illusion, a specialists’ game unmoored from actual experience. “You go with what you like.” Indeed, as Roger Scruton lays it down in his witty and erudite faux-Descartes volume I Drink Therefore I Am, “you should drink what you like, in the quantities that you like” (with the sane proviso that “you should not, through your drinking, inflict pain on others”). One thinks of the Wiccan Rede (“An it harm none, do what ye will”) and of bibulous monk François Rabelais’ Gargantua and Pantagruel, where he describes the habit of “pantagruelizing” as “drinking to your heart’s desire.” Like poet Ernest Dowson, one calls “for madder music and for stronger wine.”

There may be considerable truth in such counsels. Aside from concern for others, there are, apparently, no actual rules. Even so, there is a temptation to regard much of life, or at least the best part of it, as a wine tasting-and-pairing festival with its own principles, guidelines, and criteria, its own de facto rules. There is something charming and inventive about the concept of pairings, or the craft and discipline of distinguishing flavors, tangs, zests, and savors as well.

I have often wondered why, for example, Scotch tasters and malt masters will inevitably link a particular Scotch with an assortment of fruit and other sometimes bizarre items that do not exist in the environment where the whiskey is produced. After all, a given single malt is more likely its own distinctive beverage. An Orkney Scotch like Highland Park may resist comparisons, as would an Islay Bunnahabhain or a Glenmorangie Nectar D’Or from the Scottish Highlands. Yet Scotch magus Michael Jackson in his Malt Whisky Companion will depict Highland Park as variously smoky, chewy, a touch woody, sappy, buttery, and honeyish, Bunnahabhain as fresh, clean, and nutty, and Glenmorangie as minty, walnut-like, and salty, with notes of butterscotch and sandalwood. My own favorite is a Macallan Double Cask Gold, with hints of dried apricot, a wink of vanilla, and a nose of toffee and caramel. Or maybe it’s sherry and bourbon laced with a tickle of pepper and an edge of grass blade. And so it goes. As fanciful as such comparisons may appear, I suppose that they, too, are pairings of a kind, if somewhat displaced.

Is there any truth to these pseudo-sophisticated detections? Are they merely subjective responses or nothing more than imaginative fabrications? Or is my palate simply not educated enough to separate out these various correlations and relationships? Hard to say. But one thing is certain: the metaphor of pairings is seductive and enjoys a wide range of application to many other fields of experience.

For example, when I consider my own practice not only as a drinker but as a poet, the technique or strategy of pairing the wine of language with the tuck of subject is paramount. To begin with, the language of poetry is clearly not the language of prose, though they have unfortunately and all too frequently been blended to the detriment of both. Poetic language or prosody comes with its own unique and settled devices, such as full rhyme, slant rhyme or internal rhyme, assonance and alliteration, meter or melodic cadence, precursor echo, aphorism, anaphora, extended imagery, and much more. As in a good wine, structure and complexity are essential.

Moreover, different idioms clearly apply to different genres of poetry. Dactylic hexameter may be suitable for epic but not for sonnets. Iambic trimeter won’t fit Wordsworth’s "The Prelude." Limerick and elegy are about as compatible as rap and symphony. The pairings are mismated. The linguistic apparatus or dialect of approach must be made to fit according to mood, content, and historical categories. True, prosodic and technical surprises are always possible within certain frames of craft relevance, like Joe Fattorini introducing a potent red with mackerel or a Brazilian white with a gnocchi dish when a classic Douro would have been the expected thing. But on the whole, language and subject must pair appropriately; exceptions, though possible, are rigorously controlled.

In any event, the pleasure of wine is also the pleasure of seeing things in a new way, of enhancing things that we know and refining our perceptions. There is much to learn from the parallels of wine and food, and from Scotch as well with its far-flung comparative kindreds. Taste is highly personal and pairings may be metaphorical. At the same time, the mystery of wine and its analogical intimacies is deeply rooted in human experience, hitting that sweet spot between fiction and reality.

Elements of taste and aptness of combinations are what Scruton in his subtitled “philosopher’s guide to wine” calls “virtuous products, in which honest labour and the love of life have been distilled for your benefit.” It is the art of learning “what to drink with what” (the title of his concluding chapter). The trope is on point. He calls this, citing C.S. Lewis, the “gift-love,” the pairing of spirit and flesh, of mind and heart, of man and woman. When I think of my wife Janice, which happens often, it seems to me we make a pretty good pairing, her buoyancy, grace, and sharp intelligence balanced by my impulsiveness, klutziness, and extravagant indulgences. She says I make her laugh. I say she keeps me honest. So whether in wine, literature, or love, there may indeed be some sense to the notion of implicit rules and the general concept of appropriate pairings.



By David Solway:
The Necessity of Walls

Is Western Civ on the Way Out?
On Gravity
The Demonization of Carbon
Honouring the Higgs
Whatever Happened to Reading?
Hyphenated Sex
Skeptical Take on Queen's Gambit
Systemic Envy
Nonsensical Covid Rules
We Have Entered a Looking Glass World
The Socialist States of America
Feminism: A Self-Canceling Project
House Hunters: A Window on a Derelict Culture
The Tattoo: Sign of the Times
Where Have All the Alphas Gone?
They Burn Witches, Don't They?
Aboriginal Claims of Sovereignty
Toxic Feminism

The Scourge of Multiculturalism
Power of the Phrase: Hidden Persuaders
Is Islamic Reform Possible?
Living on the Diagonal
The Birds and the Bees
Free Speech Vs. Hate Speech
The Shaping of Our Destiny
The Scandal of Human Rights
Reconsidering the Feminine Franchise
A Melancholy Calculation
Canada: A Tragically Hip Nation
The Ideal of Perfection in Faith and Politics
The Mystery of Melody
The Necessity of Trump
Dining out with Terrorists
What About Our Sons
Identity Games
The Hour Is Later Than We Think
Caveat Internettor
Why I Like Country Music
We Have Met the Enemy
The Obama Bomb
Don't Apologize Dude
Winners and Losers
Why I Write
Praying by the Rules
Age of Contradiction
Snob Factor Among Conservatives
Islam's Infidels
David Suzuki Down
Infirmative Action
The Education Mess We're In
The Intelligence Potential Factor
Gnostics of Our Time
Decline of Literate Thought
Galloping Agraphia
Socialist Transfer of Wealth
Deconstructing the State
Delectable Lie (Multiculturalism)
The Weakness of the West
When a Civilization Goes Mad
Deconstructing Chomsky
The Multiculti Tango
Utopiah: Good Place or No Place
Palin for President?
The Madness of Reactive Politics
Liberty or Tyranny
Shunning Our Friends
A Culture of Losers
Political Correctness and the Sunset of American Power
Talking Back to Talkbackers
Letting Iran Go Nuclear
Robespierre & Co.
The Reign of Mediacracy
Into the Heart of the United Nations
The Big Lie
As You Like It
Confronting Islam
Unveiling the Terrorist Mind














Arts & Opinion, a bi-monthly, is archived in the Library and Archives Canada.
ISSN 1718-2034


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