Wines of the Great Gatsby

In preparation for a recent Winery trip on Long Island, we decided to listen to The Great Gatsby on tape while we drove. This great American classic, written in 1925 by F. Scott Fitzgerald, is based in East Egg, Long Island.

The story, based in the 20s, is a gorgeous work of art full of evocative scenes, brilliant character portrayals and intriguing plots. It is also full of highballs and hard liquor. However, we were intrigued to find that there were also four wine references in the story! Interestingly, all four wines were French - perhaps a sign that French wines were the only thing to drink if you were young, very rich, and living the life of ease.

The first mention of wine is early in the story, when Nick Carraway goes to have dinner with his cousin Daisy and her husband, Tom. They live in a mansion in the fashionable East Egg, and as they sit outside on their porch they pour out a bottle of Claret. What is a claret?

Claret is the English term for a red Bordeaux. Bordeauxs are blends of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot that are made in Bordeaux, France. The color tends to be a garnet/ruby shade. The flavor is typically a light one, with blackberry, black fruits, wood, and other notes. A classic Bordeaux is said to have a "cigar box" aroma to it.

Figuring prominantly in most party scenes is the celebration-driven Champagne. In some scenes the drink is poured in glasses "larger than finger bowls," and several of the participants end up singing, dancing, crying, or laughing due to the power of this drink.

Champagne is perhaps the most famous of all wine types. This bubbly drink is created in the Champagne region of France from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Its signature bubbles come from the use of the Methode Champenoise method, a secondary fermentation.

The next wine moment of the novel comes along as you delve into Daisy's past. Nick and his girlfriend, Jordan, have tea together and she describes how she found the 19 year old Daisy drunk on Sauternes, regretting her decision to get married to Tom. It apparently is one of the only times Daisy got drunk.

If she was to get drunk on something, Sauternes is a good choice. Also created in the Bordeaux region, Sauternes are smooth, sweet, creamy wines craated by "noble rot" - pourriture noble. Early winemakers found that this rot turned the flavor of the grapes into a rich, honey flavor, with a deep brown color. This wine can age almost indefinitely. Sauternes are primary made with the semillon grape, along with small amounts of sauvignon and muscadelle.

The final wine mention in the story comes late in the story, as Jay Gatsby approaches his tragic doom. A bottle of Chartreuse is perhaps one of the last sweet flavors Gatsby has.

Chartreuse is a French liqueur, dating back to 1605. The Carthusian monks first received a recipe to the "Elixir of Long Life" in this year. Starting with 71% wine alcohol, a mixture of 130 herbs and spices created a potent medicinal beverage. There is now also a Green Chartreuse, at 55% alcohol, and a Yellow Chartreuse at a mild 40%.

Wine in Movies, TV Shows and Books

All content on the WineIntro website is personally written by author and wine enthusiast Lisa Shea. WineIntro explores the delicious variety and beautiful history which makes up our world of wine! Lisa loves supporting local wineries and encouraging people to drink whatever they like. We all have different taste buds, and that makes our world wonderful. Always drink responsibly.