A bit over a year ago, I was in lockdown drinking a very tasty German white wine from Gravity’s Rainbow. In 2021, things are looking totally different, where by totally different I mean exactly the same except the wine is French and the book is Against the Day.
This year’s lockdown white is the 2017 Domaine Lajibe Jurançon Sec Haure, made with the Gros Manseng grape grown in the Jurançon region nestled in the foothills of the Pyrenees. (Nestled, I believe, is the only permissible way to be in relation to foothills.) It’s made by Jean-Baptiste Semmartin, one-time professional fencer on the French national team, now biodynamic vigneron. Being of eclectic training and interests, I’d say Jean-Baptiste might get along okay with Yashmeen Halfcourt and the gang in Against the Day.
Somewhere pretty deep into AtD, we find Yashmeen, Reef, and Cyprian at Yz-les-Bains, an “anarchist spa” in the aforementioned foothills, “among steep hillsides covered with late ripening vines,” (p. 931). Unexpectedly, Ratty McHugh’s there too, newly anarchised and looking radiant for it.
While they’re at the spa, between rounds of anarchist golf, Ratty introduces the others to a mysterious map, ostensibly of Belgian Congo but possibly really of the Balkans. The map appears to point (not a little obliquely) to some mechanised doom looming in Europe’s future. Yashmeen, Reef, and Ratty search for a thread to pull loose the dark plan, and try convince Cyprian to head East with them to unravel it. Yashmeen charms him into it with the help of those late-ripening vines:
“It would be every so jolly,” pouring a bistro glass brimful of local Jurançon white, “to have an ex-neo-Pythagorean along on this jaunt of ours. Insights as to what the T.W.I.T.’s Balkan counterparts might be thinking and so forth.”
“If they exist.”
“Oh, but I believe they do.”Against the Day, p. 941.
My own brimful of Jurançon white here far from anarchy and foothills is really nice stuff. It smells like stewed Granny Smith apples with a hint of green stemsyness. The flavour is super fresh and bright, crisp apple, some pineapple juice, a little orange pith, great acidity and subtle oak and nuttiness contributing to a slight buttery pastry vibe that evokes an apple danish, only zingier. It’s good. Is there some way I can arrange to serve the remainder of this lockdown from a Pyrenees anarchist mountain spa? OK thanks.