Oenology & Yarnology: Pairing with Surprising Symmetry
On this National Wine Day, we’re turning our attention to certain regions in the world that produce both signature grapes and signature fiber. We are talking here about the ultimate yarn and wine pairings – matches made with earth and vitality in mind. Sipping and stitching, when married together, work on so many levels.
Chile: Purity in Fiber and in Vine
Since the time of the Inca, the vicuña has been a protected high altitude species of camelid. This has resulted in maintaining a kind of pure approach to the cultivation of their fleece in the Chilean Andes. The wool is still harvested by capturing the wild herd animals; shearing them and then releasing them back into their habitat.
To consider the wine grapes of Chile is to consider purity as well. For the grapes grown here are not affected by phylloxera, an aphid-like nuisance that eats the roots of the grapevine. And Chile is the only major wine-producing region in the world whose vines are not falling prey to this pest.
Your Chilean Pairing
Pure vicuña yarn can be difficult to find and expensive due to its rare quality. In the name of accessibility and affordability, we’re suggesting a pairing of Bijou Basin Ranch Paco Vicuña lace yarn, and Tabali Reserva Carménère 2013.
When you intend to pair needles with wine, a just-right shawl project would do here – as would one of our Sip a Little, Stitch a Little wine tumblers. This Carménère is a smooth customer, so don’t forget to let it breathe. Just as you will allow your shawl to breathe when you are finally ready to block that beauty.
France: A Blend of Fluffy, with Smooth Tannins
One of the silkiest of animal fibers, Angora wool (aka, fluffy rabbit hair) was produced primarily in France until the 1960s. Angora is very often blended with other fibers due to its reputation for generating heat. French angora products usually contain up to 20% sheep’s wool to improve wearability.
Your French Pairing
Just as Angora must be blended to be worn comfortably, our suggestion for a wine pairing is a classic French blend. One of the most expressive from the Rhone Valley, Louis Bernard Côtes-du-Rhône Villages 2015 does a fine job of indulging one’s palate with the multiple nuances of the region’s terroir.
We advise you start with the simplicity of a cowl or scarf with this pairing – done on a small scale, you might be able to avoid heating your lap to the point of discomfort. And a stemless wine glass is always called for, in any case. Wine and knitting require balance. Lose the stem.
Spain: Merino Roots and Mythical Windmills
This recommendation is not meant to ignore what the Australian continent has done with Merino wool. It simply cannot be denied that selective breeding of this classic sheep by Aussie ranchers took Merino to a finer level.
But Merino’s origin? Spain all day, baby. So highly prized was this original fiber, that the sheep were for the most part owned by the church or by nobility. The Spanish wool industry benefitted from a wool monopoly for 400 years before Merino became prolific in other parts of the world.
Your Spanish Pairing
Just as Merino was once an exclusively Spanish wool, the Airén grape is currently grown solely in Spain, predominantly in the arid La Mancha region (with all those windmills, how can a humble grape make its mark?). Lacking the high praise of the Albariño grape, yet considered quaffable nonetheless, Airén continues to see further developments in its cultivation. Find the best of this grape in a bottle of Protocolo Blanco 2014, a blend of 50% Airén and 50% Macabeo grapes.
No matter where you source your merino yarn, or whether you choose a blend, it is destined for a project befitting its lineage. Grab that vino de España and get to stitching a project that you will never want to stop wearing.
Considering the celebration of the magical elixir that is wine is ongoing, we can assure you this is not our last post on pairing knitting and wine. And if you are having trouble understanding the parallel, we suggest you join a knit night. Those crafters will set you straight.