Episode 1: Middle-earth & Old World Wines, Part One- The Hobbit

Welcome to Pairing, the podcast where we talk about how to pair wine with art and pop culture! In this episode, Emma, your host, introduces the show by pairing each place in The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien with a different wine region in Europe, as well as finding several characters' "spirit grapes." Emma and her frequent partner in crime Winston tell you how to decipher a French wine label, the difference between Left Bank and Right Bank Bordeaux, and many other wine facts! Also: wizard business vs. kitty business, video games, and Wu-Tang Clan. You don't have to know anything about wine or Tolkien to listen to the episode, though it doesn't hurt if you do!

Episode Transcript


Emma:  Hello and welcome to Pairing! My name is Emma Sherr-Ziarko, and I, for better or worse, will be your host for this podcast. First of all, thank you so much for having enough curiosity to listen. I've had the idea for this podcast for years and I am so excited to finally be releasing it into the world!

It's basically an exploration of all of my own personal favorite things, so I thank you from the bottom of my heart for indulging me. On Pairing, we're going to talk about wine, but probably not in a way that you ever have before: instead of talking about pairing wine with food, we're going to talk about which wines pair perfectly with your favorite book, or movie, or play, or TV show, or game, or whatever else that you enjoy!

Part informal wine education and part discussion of art and pop culture, this podcast is for everyone, whether you know absolutely nothing about wine, which is totally awesome, or you're a Master Sommelier, which is pretty cool too. Hopefully, you will learn something, or at least have fun with every episode, and maybe you'll be inspired to read a book or watch a movie or listen to music or go out and see a play, and hopefully you'll drink wine while you do it!

For me, at least, knowing the story behind a bottle of wine enriches my experience of drinking it. So I'm approaching wine education as storytelling, in a sense. Personally, I'm more interested in talking about wine from a cultural, historical, and personal perspective than from a technical perspective, though you will get some of that information. With every episode you'll learn new wine terms about making wine and tasting wine, and we may go into them in some depth, but for the most part, I won't overburden you with technical information. If you already know a ton about wine, I hope it will be fun for you to think about wine pairing from a different angle. If you know nothing about wine, I hope that the information you get here will give you curiosity and confidence to explore it further. Even if you don't drink wine- whether you don't drink at all or it's just not your thing- I still hope that you find it fun and interesting. For everyone, I hope that listening helps you appreciate wine in and of itself as an art form.

Here's a little background on me, just so you know what you're getting into: I grew up in the Arts. My parents are both classical musicians and I dabbled in just about everything else: dance, writing, painting, acting, I've done it all! I was a theater major in college with a focus on acting and recently I've steered more towards voiceover. However, as is the case with most actors trying to make it in the industry, I had to explore other modes of employment in order to pay my rent. So I stumbled upon another passion: wine and wine education. I've worked in the wine industry for about five years now and at this point I call myself a "Baby Sommelier" because I've passed my Level One with the Court of Master sommeliers and I can't call myself "Certified" until I pass Level Two. So, I know a thing or two about wine, but I am also constantly learning.

You'll find through listening to this podcast that I definitely have a soft spot for Sci-fi and Fantasy, but I want to assure you that I'm also going to dive into many different genres. That being said It felt only right to me to start off the podcast by talking about some of my favorite works: The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. Just as these books introduced me and so many others to the world of high fantasy literature, I thought these episodes could introduce you to some of the basics of wine! In this series of episodes, which I'm calling Middle-earth and Old World Wines, I'm going to talk about the journey through these books and pair each place with a different wine region in Europe. You don't have to know or like Tolkien to appreciate these episodes and the spoilers are very minimal. There is a corresponding blog to each of our episodes on our website at thepairingpodcast.com with links to different wines, producers, and sources we talked about in case you're looking for more information or you just couldn't understand what I said.

I do have one disclaimer: I try to come as prepared as possible to the recording studio. But sometimes I don't fact-check myself in the moment. However, I do want you to have the most accurate information possible. So I'll do my best to let you know of those corrections in these intros and on the blog. In this episode, I say that Priorat and Rioja are Spain's two only DOs, and they're actually the only two DOCa's,  Denominación de Origen Calificada. If that means absolutely nothing to you, listen to the episode, and find out what the heck I'm talking about!

I have a few special thanks for this episode, because these are the people who made Pairing possible: first, to Gabriel Urbina, Zach Valenti and Sarah Shachat, my podcasting family who helped guide me through the process of actually making a podcast. If you don't listen to Wolf 359, please go check it out! Next, to Darcy Zimmerman who designed the logo and intuitively knew that my cat had to be on it , and Katie Huey for bringing it to digital life. And, lastly, most of all to Winston Shaw, whom you'll hear on many of these episodes, for his music, for his recording equipment, and for his constant unfailing support.

So. Thank you so much for listening. I'm so excited to start on this adventure with all of you! If you like the show, please consider leaving a review on iTunes as that's one of the best ways to get more people to listen in .

Without further Ado. (music) Here's Episode 1 of Pairing: The Hobbit.

(Intro Music)

Emma: So I'm here, by myself. Right now, It's 12:30 in the morning, I don't know why I'm doing this. I just, you know, stress cleaned my apartment. But here I am. I'm drinking one of my favorite wines in the world. And this is Domaine Rochette, Morgon Cote du Py, 2015 vintage.

That probably means absolutely nothing to you, right? Okay. I'm going to make that mean something to you: Domaine Rochette is the Producer. That's the name that the people chose for the company who produces the wine. Morgon is a sub-region within the region of Beaujolais. It's one of the top "Villages" (french pronunciation) or literally Villages. It's a village in Beaujolais, which is south of Burgundy in France, which is steadily becoming more and more renowned for its fantastic wines made from the Gamay grape. So this wine that I'm drinking is made from a hundred percent Gamay. Cote du Py is literally a hill and  sub-region within this village, within Beaujolais, within France, that is considered one of the best sites and has one of the best terroirs... I'll explain terroir later... Basically, it just means the best combination of soil and, you know, sunlight and, uh the general weather; general growing conditions. Not too complicated! 2015: considered one of the best vintages in this region in France.

So that's what I'm drinking. Hopefully that kind of broke it down for you a little bit, and I hope that it helps you understand a little bit how a kind of, like, indiscernible wine label can become comprehensible. And that's what I want to do with this podcast. I want to make wine comprehensible. I want to make it accessible and I want you to know that it doesn't have to be snobby. You don't have to know everything about it, but the more that you know, the more that you'll enjoy it and I don't think that that has to be a thing reserved for people in the wine profession. I don't think that that has to be a thing reserved for Sommeliers or Masters of Wine or you know, anybody working the wine profession and, and so that's, that's where my idea for this podcast came from because I didn't come from a wine background, I came from a performing arts background. I came from a literary background, I came from an academic background. And I've slowly learned that these things fit together very, very well, actually. Studying wine and studying art come together very, very well or just enjoying wine and enjoying art come together very, very well.

So, this wine happens to be one of my most favorites not just because it's delicious but also because it's not that expensive and that's the other secret and the other key that I want to let you know throughout this podcast, is I'm going to try to point you in directions that will lead you to some of the greatest Wines in the world, but also some of the really great wines that are affordable! Because not all of us can afford the really great wines in the world.

(sound of door opening)

-Sorry, I just had to let in my cat. Her name is Queen and you'll hear her a lot on this podcast. She has a lot to say about these things.-

Anyway. So, I'm going to lead you in the direction of good wines that are affordable. I'm going to tell you some of my favorites having worked in the wine industry for the past five years or so. I'll also tell you about some of the great wines because if you can afford them, by golly gee, you should get 'em. Aside from leading you in a direction pointing you towards good affordable wines, I want to have fun and I want to talk about how to pair wine with art.

And so, because I'm drinking one of my favorite wines, I want to talk to you about one of my favorite books! Technically... 3 slash 4 books, and, let's be real, it's actually my favorite books of all time, and these are, of course, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. Now, if these are not your jam, that's totally okay. I'm gonna talk about wine, I'm gonna talk about things throughout this episode that you don't have to like the Lord of the Rings to listen to, but hopefully you'll enjoy it whether you have read the books or not, whether you've seen the movies or not. And the reason why I chose to start off with the Lord of the Rings is because, for me, what I love most about these books is that they're about a Journey. They're about a Hero's Journey, yes, but more importantly for me they're about a Journey, and every different Place we go to is so rich with a different culture: Tolkien creates a whole world within each place that we go to, and in studying wine you learn that Place is so important to the wine. And so, I'm going to go through the Journey of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings and I'm going to pair each different location- each different place- with a different region- with a different wine region. And because Tolkien's Middle-earth is so obviously based off of Europe and England, I'm going to stick to Old World Wines.

This is your first wine term: "Old World," as you can probably surmise, means European wines because Europe has been making wine for a really long time. It's possible that other places have been making wine as long but we don't have record of it as much and the... and the culture of wine as we know it more belongs to the world of European wines and New World Wines- so, these are wines coming from like the United States, South America, Argentina, Chile, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa- places like this, they've gleaned a lot from Old World Wines. And so I think it's important to understand Old World Wines before you learn about New World Wines. We'll talk about those for sure, but not as much in these episodes.

So I'm going to pair each place in The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings- or most of the places in The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, there's a lot- with many of what I think are the most important Old World wine regions to know about. And I'm going to talk about why I think that is why I'm making this pairing, and also give you some suggestions for really great wines from those regions to try out. And I think it's going to be fun and I'm pretty excited about it. So let's get started.

So, I'm going to begin my Pairing discussion of The Hobbit by doing a grape and character pairing. Like I've said, I'm going to try to do mostly- we're going to do a journey through the different places in Middle-earth and pair them with different wine regions in Europe, but I'm also going to pair a grape with each character or, not each character, but many of the important characters... their "Spirit Grape," if you will, and for Bilbo Baggins, the hero of The Hobbit, I have chosen Cabernet Franc.

Cabernet Franc is one of my absolute favorite grapes, and it's... it's kind of hard to find a lot of really good Cabernet Franc, I think personally. It definitely grows best in France in the Loire Valley. We're going to talk more about that later. But in that region it tends to be much earthier and kind of has, like, an almost woody note to it. There are some Chinons- so Chinon is a region where Cabernet Franc is the primary grape. Those wines can be, almost, like have that kind of tree bark component to them. But, I know that doesn't sound good, but it's actually fantastic. Then on the other hand, you can find Cabernet Francs that are just really fruity and easy drinking and fun. And so I think Bilbo Baggins is perfect for Cabernet Franc because he starts off in that style of, like, really kind of light and fruity, happy-go-lucky, going about his life, you know, just being a hobbit in his hobbit hole, and then he gets thrust into this world, into this journey, and becomes much harsher. Not harsher, but tougher. Tougher is a much better word: tougher like tree bark. (laughs) Um... I hate... I mean, okay, so not most Cabernet Franc taste like tree bark but it has this kind of earthy funky component to it, and I think that Bilbo Baggins really embraces his kind of earthy, funky side- his Tookish side, if you will, as his journey progresses. So that's why that's why I've chosen Cabernet Franc for Bilbo Baggins. If you've never had a Cabernet Franc, go check it out. They're awesome, awesome wines.

So, whether you've read the books or seen the movies or both, you've probably heard of the Shire. The Shire is this wonderful, mythical land that Tolkien created where hobbits live- hobbits being small people who like to eat and drink a lot. We're all kind of hobbits at heart, I think, but Tolkien said that he specifically created the Shire and the hobbits as kind of a model of the people of England and the, the Hill Country of England. So that's going to come into play and just a moment. But, so we begin The Hobbit -so The Hobbit is of course the prequel to The Lord of the Rings that follows the Journey of Bilbo Baggins and the events therein set up the story for The Lord of the Rings.

Bilbo Baggins is a Hobbit. And he's just minding his own business one day and the wizard Gandalf shows up and messes everything up and brings a bunch of dwarves to his house. And so this is called... this chapter is called "An Unexpected Party," and all the dwarves are demanding food and drink and Bilbo's getting everything from his, you know, extensive stores and his Hobbit Hole, which is, you know, kind of like a one floor mansion, it sounds like, (laughs) a homey kind of one floor mansion. And of course, he's a hobbit, so he appreciates the finer things in life, and he's got some good wine. And so one of the things I love is that Gandalf requests "Claret." Claret is the name that the English use for Bordeaux and Bordeaux is one of the finest French Wines in the world, you've probably heard of Bordeaux. I think even if you don't know much about wine, you've probably heard of Bordeaux

(Door Opens, Cat Meows)

-Here she is again! (Talking to Cat) Come on in!-

(Cat Meows)

Now that Queen is here, we can keep talking. I will obviously have to go into a lot of depth at some point or another about Bordeaux. But for now just a little just a few little tips about Bordeaux: if you go into a wine shop: often, you know, if a snooty sommelier- and I can say that because I work with many sommeliers who are not snooty at all, who are really wonderful- but one of the things we talk about in the wine world is Left Bank versus right Bank Bank Bordeaux, and a lot of people are like, what the hell does that mean?

So basically: Bordeaux is split by, actually, two rivers and an estuary. And on one side of the estuary and the riv- and one river that's called "Left Bank," and on the other side is called the "Right Bank." It makes sort of sense except that if you look at a map, it's like, kind of, more like North and South rather than just East and West, but, it's fine.

So, Left Bank Bordeaux is Cabernet Sauvignon-based and Right Bank Bordeaux is primarily Merlot-based, and the difference between these two is fundamentally that Left Banks, so the Cabernet Sauvignon-based, are a little bit earthier, a little bit darker, a little bit more tannin to them and Right Bank Bordeauxs are a little bit more fruit driven... Not really they're still... They're kind of like chocolaty and, and have this smooth, richness to them. They still have tannin, they've still got full body to them, but they're, they're not quite as earthy and kind of herbal as Left Bank Bordeauxs. I will go into more depth with those. However, there's also this little region between those two regions called Entre-Deux-Mers which literally means "between two seas," so between the two rivers, and if you find a wine that says Entre-Deux-Mers on it, then that's often a really good value for Bordeaux. Because wines from that region tend not to be quite as expensive as Right Bank or Left Bank Bordeauxs. So that's just a little Pro Tip.

So look for Entre-Deux-Mers. Otherwise, I'm going to give you the names of the five "Premier Cru" producers of Bordeaux. Don't worry too much about what that means exactly right now, I'll go into that later, but these are essentially the five five of the oldest and most renowned producers in Bordeaux. And those are: Chateau Mouton-Rothschild, Chateau Lafite-Rothschild, Chateau LaTour, Chateau Haut-Brion, and Chateau Margaux. If you see those on a label and there's a good price on it, grab it. It may be it may be like a really bad vintage really bad bottle or something but those wines tend to be inordinately expensive but fantastic. So look out for those.

All right, so going on with our journey. So, Bilbo joins the dwarves and Gandalf for the time being and the first adventure they encounter is meeting some trolls. This is a pretty famous scene, even before the movie, with the trolls arguing and Gandalf confusing everyone and, it's just great fun! It's just great fun, and the region that I chose and I'm not entirely sure why but it just feels right is a region called Cahors. Cahors is also in France, it's actually just a little east of Bordeaux so not too far from you know, it's kind of geographic in a way... Um, the geo- the geographic comparisons are going to end pretty soon but Cahors is a region that is unique because its primary grape is Malbec, and most people don't know that Malbec actually originated in France and then was transplanted to Argentina and Argentina has since made it totally famous, but it originated in France and actually French Malbec is very different from Argentine Malbec. It's a little more austere. It's a little bit lighter, um, not always, and a little bit... just kind of like a little bit earthier than than Argentine Malbec tends to be. So a couple of producers to look out for- oh and the reason why I chose Cahors for this is because I think it would be really great with roast mutton (mumbled) with Roast Mutton (clearer) , I'm sorry, which is of course roast sheep -sorry!- which is what the trolls are eating when we stumble upon them, and find them arguing about. Two, two really great producers to look out for- and the great thing about Cahors is also they tend not to be super expensive: kind of in the, like, $15 to $20 range somewhere... somewhere between $10 and $20 depending on which producer and where you find it- but Clos Siguier is a really great producer and Combel La Serre.

Okay, so moving on from the trolls. Next, we come upon- the next big place we come upon- is Rivendell, in The Hobbit. And we come to Rivendell both in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings which is fun, which means I get to pair a couple different wines with it! Yay! However, the region that, to me, undeniably belongs to Rivendell is Tuscany. Tuscany being one of the best regions in Italy, both for wine and for everything else. Um (laughs) I'm a little biased because I think that Florence is probably the favorite- my favorite- place that I've ever been. And it's just a place that really resonates with me, but above all I think that most people would agree that Tuscany is, you know, this kind of medieval region with all this amazing architecture and art. It is just the ultimate vacation spot and I think that Rivendell in Middle-earth is the ultimate vacation spot. There's elves, who love life, and they give you lots of wine and food and, you know, they sing songs all the time, and it, and it looks like fall perpetually there, and there's, and there's you know waterfalls... It's just, it's just beautiful and that's where I'd want to spend all my time. You know, Bilbo sort of retires at the beginning of the Fellowship of the Ring and he retires to Rivendell and I do not blame him one bit. I would love to end up in Tuscany myself.

So. We're in Tuscany with Rivendell and I'm going to talk more about the red wines of Tuscany, which are the real serious wines of Tuscany, when we revisit it in The Lord of the Rings, but for now, I want to talk about the lesser-known white wines of Tuscany, the most famous of which, I should say, is Vernaccia di San Gimignano. San Gimignano is, and I quote: "a storybook medieval town." This comes from Karen MacNeil in The Wine Bible. I'm pretty much solely referencing The Wine Bible this evening. There's lots of great wine books out there. But Karen McNeil's Wine Bible is my absolute favorite because she gives you a great depth of description and information about wine while still having... she... her style of writing is kind of like an engaging prose, almost poetic at times. And so if you're... If you're a creatively minded person and you were raised in the Arts and literature field, I think you'd really like Karen MacNeil's Wine Bible.

So anyway, so she describes San Gimignano as a storybook medieval town, which is totally true and Vernaccia is the name of the grape that comes from this region. It was actually the first "Appellation"- or, kind of, established wine region in Italy- or at least the first... No, I think it was the first. It might be the first just white wine region, but I think it was the first. Yeah. No, it was the first. Which is funny because it's definitely not the most well-known but it's the first established and Rivendell is kind of one of the first established Elven... uh, sanctuaries? I guess? in Middle-earth. Yeah. There's more to say about that, but I'm not going to geek out that much on this episode. (laughs) I'll geek out later when we go into the solely- Rivendell episode. One of the best producers of Vernaccia di San Gimignano is called San Quirico, so if you see San Quirico Vernaccia, try it out, it's delicious. It's dry. It's got nice kind of richness to it as well. So give it, give it a shot.

Continuing on the journey, we must leave our vacation spot sadly. I never wanted to leave Tuscany when I was there, ugh. Even going to Rome, I was like, why am I here? I want to go back to Firenze! Okay. So, going on, next we come to: Goblin Town. And personally, okay. I have a lot of feelings about The Hobbit the movie. I thought the Lord of the Rings was spectacular. I thought it was a perfect movie adaptation of the books it... carried the spirit of the books, while changing just enough to make it kind of appropriate for cinema, but it still felt honest and authentic. And you could tell that Peter Jackson just loved these books so much and wanted to tell this story so truly with The Hobbit it just felt like Hollywood, and you'll find that's a common opinion among Tolkien afficionados. Not to say it's not a fun movie, it's a fun movie, but if you've read the book, you're like this is not The Hobbit. But. My favorite scenes in The Hobbit are actually in Goblin Town and Bilbo meeting Gollum because those are pretty authentic to the book. Because they're a little more fun, they're a little more playful, and The Hobbit is a little more fun and more playful. It's not like a War Epic. It's a... it was meant to be a children's story. It's a pretty dark children's story, but a children's story nonetheless.

So in Goblin Town, the pairing that I chose for this is Sherry. Sherry is a fortified wine coming from the region of Jerez in Spain. Fortified and dessert wines are actually some of the most difficult to understand and explain. I have difficulty understanding them and explaining them myself... How they're made and the, and the history behind them, and I've, and I've worked in the industry for a fair amount of time. There's this, there's this process to making Sherry called the Solera system, and I'm not going to go into it, but it involves a lot of different levels. So- a lot of different levels of like barrels- and so, because there's multi-levels to making Sherry and Goblin Town is a multi-leveled town- it's kind of a mining town,you have to go down into it- I am picking Sherry for Goblin Town. Just a little Quick Facts on Sherry: there's a lot of different kinds and I'll get into that hopefully in another episode, but some of the things you'll find on a Sherry label are: Manzanilla, Fino, Amontillado, Palo Cortado, Oloroso, Cream  and Pedro Ximenez. And those are all different kinds of Sherry and they're all distinct and unique. And some producers to look out for with Sherry are Emilio Lustau and Hidalgo. Okay, that's a little bit about Sherry. We'll get into it later. We'll learn more about it together

Next, my favorite: Gollum's caves. Rather than pairing a specific wine region to Gollum's caves, which is just beneath Goblin Town... So it's not like a specifically different place, but it's a very important place in the story... More than pairing a region with Gollum's caves, I would like to pair a grape with Gollum. And, technically, this grape is a region. It's just known colloquially by the region, and that is Muscadet. Muscadet is actually a region in the Loire Valley. Loire Valley is in France, it's kind of middle France, and it's the westernmost part. And the reason why I am choosing this for Gollum is for a few region- few reasons, actually. One, is that, okay, the actual grape is called Melon de Bourgogne- Bourgogne meaning Burgundy. Melon de Bourgogne is a grape that was actually taken from Burgundy and put into this different part of France, just like Gollum came from this River Town and came to his, to this mountain, and sort of, like, became decrepid with his insatiable desire for the Ring and his whole obsession with it. He just, like, kind of deteriorated slowly over time. Okay. This is making Muscadet sound really bad... Muscadet is a fantastic wine and part of why I've chosen it for Gollum is that it's very under- misunderstood, rather, not understood, misunderstood. Most people see Muscadet and they think it's sweet because they think of Muscat or Moscato which tend to be sweeter wines. Muscadet is about as dry as you can get when it comes to white wine. It's light, it's got lots of citrus fruit, lots of salinity, it's very flinty and it's great with seafood! And Gollum- say what, say anything about Gollum- he loves his fish even if it's raw and gross. But if he was going to pair wine with it, it would be Muscadet and that is why Gollum gets Muscadet.

(door closes)

Winston: Hi, everybody.

Emma: You gonna join in?

Winston: Yep.

Emma: Folks, we are now joined by my fantastic fiance Winston Shaw who's going to help me keep talking about this in probably a more engaging and interesting way and rather than me just rambling on and on.

Winston: Okay, so you just paired Gollum with Muscadet?

Emma:  I did.

Winston: Why is that?

Emma: I just explained it, but it's-

Winston: Ok nevermind.

Emma: (laughs) -because... It's because... It's because Muscadet is misunderstood, because most people think it's a sweet wine, but is actually one of the driest wines in the world. The grape itself is called Melon de Bourgogne and it's a transplant grape just like Gollum is a transplant creature. He's transplanted from his home.

Winston:  From not the Shire.

Emma:  Not the Shire. He's like a semi-hobbit.

Winston: Right, but-

Emma: He's one of the river folk.

Winston: I always thought it was weird that they were like hobbits but not hobbits.

Emma: Yeah, he's not a, yeah, he's like... They're like pseudo-hobbits, they're hobbits from a different part of the world, kinda. But, so, part of what I'm doing, Winston, just so you know, is that I'm talking about each place that we go to, pairing a different region with that place, and then I'm going to give some suggestions for good affordable wines from this wine region, but also good names to know from the wine region.

Winston: Nice

Emma: So, killing two birds with one stone from this wine region: one of the best producers is Jo Landron. He's awesome. He's got like this huge mustache. He's fabulous. But he also produces kind of an introductory level wine called "Amphibolite" and it's, you know, depending on where you find it, it's about $15 to $20 a bottle and it's fantastic. Fantastic example of Muscadet.

So, Bilbo and the dwarves, they escape Goblin Town and Gollum's caves and they eventually end up at this guy's house. (laughs) This guy's name is Beorn and he's an unusual fellow because he's half bear-half human. He's kind of like a werewolf, but he can-

Winston: He's a were-bear.

Emma: He a were-bear. Yeah, he can turn himself into a, into a bear whenever he wants. Um-

Winston: He's vegan.

Emma: He's vegan. He's got lots of... And he- he loves animals. Obviously. He's a bear.

Winston: Wait is he vegan or vegetarian? Because doesn't he serve them cheese?

Emma: He probably- yeah, he serves them cheese and honey. So he's vegetarian.

Winston: Yeah, he would probably snowboard though.

Emma: I'm sure he would snowboard. So anyway, so the region that I'm going to pair with Beorn is the Rhone Valley in France. I realize I'm doing a lot of French wines for The Hobbit. Meh?

Winston: Why not?

Emma: Why not. The reason why I chose the Rhone Valley is because the Rhone Valley is very much split between two different styles: there's the Northern Rhone, which is Syrah-based and the Southern Rhone, which is primarily Grenache-based. So Syrah-based wines, the Northern Rhone wines, are much, like, darker earthier, they're incredibly dense and spicy and, for me, like, I can't get over this black olive taste from Northern Rhone Syrah...

Winston:  Which is weird because you don't like black olives.

Emma: Yeah. Exactly. So Northern Rhone Syrah is considered one of the best wine regions, or the one of the best wines, in the world, and I'm just not that crazy about them because I don't like black olives and that's all I can taste from them. But there's also this just like kind of meaty, gamey quality to them. And also, I should clarify, like some of the best producers that I've tasted from northern Rhone, I mean, they're unbelievable. I can get over my dislike of black olives for them. But then Southern Rhone, so where like Cotes du Rhone and Chateauneuf du Pape and a couple other regions that are more commonly known come from, those are a little bit lighter and fruitier. And Cotes du Rhone is one of the best wines to go for if you're just trying to get an inexpensive great dinner wine, table wine they go well- they are incredibly versatile wines. They pair really well with all sorts of different foods or moods. So the re-but the reason why I chose this region is because, you know, I think of bear Beorn as very much like Northern Rhone Syrah, but then Southern Rhone is very much like man Beorn who's like very friendly. Well, he's not very friendly, but he can be coaxed to friendliness.

Winston: Yeah...

Emma: And also, I mean we're talking about cheese and honey. Chat- Chateauneuf du Pape and Cotes du Rhone pair really nicely with cheese.

Winston: That was always my problem with The Hobbit particularly. I mean, not, it's not alone among adventure novels, but you know, it sort of inspired  most of them, and I always think when they get to a cool place, I'm like, man I would just hang out, you know?

Emma: Well, that's the point is that the- you want to just hang out, like in Rivendell-

Winston: (laughing)Yeah, yeah Rivendell.

Emma: Or as, so I paired Rivendell with Tuscany earlier-

Winston: Very nice

Emma: -and like you don't want to leave Tuscany.

Winston: No!

Emma:  You don't want to leave the Rhone Valley

Winston: Uh-uh!

Emma:  These are not places you want to leave. They're amazing places.

Winston: Yeah. I'm staying right there.

Emma: So anyway, so we talked a little bit about Cotes du Rhone. To talk about just a couple of great producers in this region that are also affordable: Michel and Stefane Ogier, they're primarily a northern Rhone producer, but they do some stuff in the Southern Rhone. Their wines are awesome and often not too expensive. And then one of my favorite producers, because I got to meet the winemaker a few years ago: Chateau Montfaucon. The winemaker is Rudolphe de Pins, or Rudy as we call him. He was-

Winston: (simultaneous) Hey, Rudy, hey!

Emma: He was just, he was just a sweet guy and he makes really good wines and, and affordable wines in all sorts of styles and types, and also some really quite wonderful higher-end wines as well. So check out Chateau Montfaucon.

Winston: Did you have to go over the amazing wine that you're drinking right now?

Emma: Yes, I did.

Winston: Okay. Okay. Sorry. Sorry. I'm catching up guys. I'm catching up.

Emma: (simultaneous) But thank you!

Winston: I had to I had to play League of Legends earlier. (Emma laughs ) It is a game preferred by 13-year-olds.

Emma: Well, but also part of what I was talking about is how Tolkien's influence expands into not just fantasy novels but also video games.

Winston: Oh, everything!

Emma: Like everything and there's so much. I mean League of Legends not so much as Warhammer, but

Winston: Yeah, but, I mean, but Warhammer's also kind of an older generation entertainment, platform

Emma: (simultaneous) Right.

Winston: So... And even now as it's... Everything it takes it stole from Tolkien.

Emma: Yeah

Winston:  Except for this stuff it stole from HR Giger. That's the like sci-fi version. But yeah, Dark Elves, Orcs, Goblins, High Elves... They're called the Eldar, for heaven's sake.

Emma: Yeah, but the Eldar Tolkien created because he literally created the language-

Winston: (simultaneous)The language Eldar.

Emma: -created the word Eldar, so...

Winston: Which doesn't it mean star children?

Emma: Star people, yeah.

Winston: Star people, yeah.

Emma: Mm-hmm.

Winston: Nice.

Emma: Yep. So the elves are the children of the stars, or the people of the stars. But yeah. It's just like, it's incredible the extent to which his influence, you find it everywhere in modern fantasy.

Winston: Well and to make it even more plain, League of Legends comes from a custom-made map that was based on the game World of Warcr- or Warcraft 3- which is directly inspired... It's Blizzard stealing from Tolkien as opposed to Games Workshop's stealing from Tolkien.

Emma: (simultaneous) Yeah, yeah.

Winston: Everybody  steals from Tolkien. It's like what are they-

Emma: Yeah. Is it Warcraft that steals from Tolkien?

Winston: They all do. All of them

Emma: (simultaneous) They all do, okay.

Winston: Warcraft, Warhammer, all of them.

Emma: All of them. Cool. All right, so we're moving on. As much as we don't want to move on from Beorn, we have to move on from Beorn, and it's especially sad at this point because we lose Gandalf in the story.

Winston: Oh that's right.

Emma: I mean, he doesn't, he doesn't die. He just, he-

Winston: Nah, he's just, he's like, peace.

Emma:  He, he peaces out because he's got something else to work on.

Winston: He's got wizard business, as opposed to kitty business.

Emma: He has, he has wizard business. And so we next come to Mirkwood. And so this is going to be the first of three Forest Wines that I introduce.

Winston: (sultry) Oh, hello.

Emma: Yes, yes, Forest Wines.

Winston: I like the way you said that.

Emma: Yes. So the pairing for Mirkwood that I chose is Priorat from Eastern Spain, from Catalunya. Priorat is one of the greatest wines from Spain, for sure. I chose it because it's described as, also by Karen MacNeil- I talked about Karen MacNeil earlier, she's the one who wrote

Emma & Winston: The Wine Bible

Emma: Yeah, who I love, and I'm just quoting from her.

Winston: Be our friend Karen!

Emma: So, she describes Priorat wines as: "intense, inky, and powerful." And also in Priorat, the days are intensely hot and the nights are cool. So we're talking about a lot of darkness, inkiness. So Mirkwood is basic- basically pitch black.

Winston: Yeah.

Emma: Because they go off the path and so there-

Winston: -and the canopy is so crazy thick.

Emma: (simultaneous) Yeah. Yeah. And so that made me think of Priorat. That wine that I was drinking, I think it was last night, might have been two nights ago, but that was a Priorat.

Winston: So, why are you hating on my Tempranillo? What's, why, why is Tempranillo taking, taking second title?

Emma: Take your time-it wer- wait. Wait, Winston, we're gonna get to Tempranillo and it's gonna be awesome!

Winston: Okay, okay!

Emma: We're introducing Priorat first.

Winston: All right, fine.

Emma: It's one of the Forest Wines. Okay?

Winston: Sure. Okay. Yeah, if you want to drink it, while you're being attacked by giant spiders, that's fine.

Emma: (simultaneous) But, but, no, but, but... Well, but literally there's two DOs, which is just... It means den- Denominación de Origen, I think, in-

Winston: Is that the same kind of thing as Appellation?

Emma: Yeah, it's an Appellation,

Winston: Okay.

Emma:  It's the Spanish Appellation system that they use and there's, I believe, only two in Spain, and the first is Rioja and the second is Priorat. So, there you go. We'll get to Rioja, calm down, Winston.

Winston: I'm sorry.  I'm sorry. I apologize.

Emma: Okay. So anyway. So Priorat: some of the greatest wines in Spain- next to Rioja. There's also some other really great wines from Spain and we'll get to those as well. So, a couple of the best producers from Priorat- I also I have to make a disclaimer: I'm not super super familiar with the wines of Priorat. I want to become more familiar with them because every time I drink one, I'm like, oh my God, this is amazing. My first exposure was, actually, I was pouring at an industry tasting in New York and they assigned me to, like, the Priorat table, and I was like, what's this? And so I had to, like, research it really quickly and, and be like, Oh. Cool. One of the best regions in the world. Awesome. Glad I knew that! But, two of the best producers from Priorat are Finca Dofi and Clos- Clos Erasmus is one of the most famous producers from Spain in general. So.

Winston:  Awesome name.

Emma: Yeah, if you find a Clos Erasmus, snag it. All right. I realize I probably should have put in a, you know, like the, the subchapter of Mirkwood where they're in the Elven part of Mirkwood where they're all captives and-

Winston: Oh where they're in prison and they have to escape in Barrels

Emma: Yeah, yeah. But I think Priorat works for that too. Just keep drinking Priorat- also, also, like, the elves are like super, super winos.

Winston: (simultaneous) Yeah, don't they, don't they escape because the elves get tanked?

Emma: (simultaneous) They love their wine. Yeah, pretty much!

(laughter all around)

Winston: Bilbo's like, "Here! Get some! Have some!" He's invisible and he's like "have more wine bros!"

Emma: (simultaneous) Yeah! Yep, pretty much.

Winston:  Nice. Oh, and doesn't he like start an argument between two of the guards or something? And they're all like-

Emma: (simultaneous) Yeah, he does. He's very crafty.

Winston: (simultaneous) -they're shitfaced, and he's like, "Yo, he said that your mom's fat!" Or you know something smart.

Emma: Yes, that's exactly what he says. (laughs) It's funny because in The Lord of the Ring- I mean in The Hobbit the, the elves are presented as much, like, kind of goofier and more human than they are in Lord of the Rings. In Lord of the Rings they become kind of like, this godly creature

Winston: Even the wood-elves?

Emma: Yeah, I mean Legolas is one of the wood-elves, he comes from Mirkwood, and he's sort of still-

Winston: That's true.

Emma: -still kind of snooty and,

Winston: But like, The Hobbit's tone generally is so much more jovial and, like, not really taking itself, you know-

Emma: Absolutely! I already went on my diatribe about the movie.

Winston: Yeah.

Emma: About how it does not capture that at all.

Winston: I think, so, you finally educated me that The Hobbit actually did come first.

Emma: Mm-hmm!

Winston: And not The Lord of the Rings. So I think maybe because it's closer in time to his World War One service-

Emma: Mmm-hmmm...

Winston: -maybe he's more like oh, well, all figures of authority are nonsense. And, you know, "ancient cultures," so-called, are just as prone to be silly and stupid as anybody...

Emma: (skeptical) Mmmmmm...

Winston: And then the Nazis come on the scene when he's writing Lord of the Rings and he's like, oh no actually, doom. Doom! (laughs)

Emma: Well, he... Well, he'd, he'd already written... I mean he'd started writing Lord of the Rings around the same time. He'd already seen, you know, he'd already been in World War I before both of those

Winston: (simultaneous) Yeah, but it's such a radical shift in tone. I'm just I'm saying.

Emma: Yeah, but he wrote The Hobbit... He intended it as a children's story. It's a pretty dark, pretty sophisticated children's story, but it's still a children's story. And so I think a lot of the tone and the content of The Hobbit differs from The Lord of the Rings not because of a shift in Tolkien's mind, but just because of a difference of intention.

Winston: But also most children stories are not necessarily that subversive. I mean, maybe I mean, maybe I'm missing out on a lot of stuff like there's your Peter Cottontails, and there's various trickster stories.

Emma: Wellll....

Winston: But I mean...

Emma: I mean when we say children's story, I think... It's not like, you know, it's not like the story books that you read. I mean, it's a 300-page book.

Winston: Right, right, right...

Emma: But for like 10 year olds,

Winston: But take, compare that to the credulousness of Narnia, right?

Emma: Yeah. I mean, I think it was sort of like his Narnia, maybe, and then Lord of the Rings is a little more sophisticated. I don't know. Moving on! Because we've got an agenda! So next they make it to Laketown, because Bilbo literally empties a whole bunch of wine barrels that dwarves can be in and they float down to Laketown. And I chose Provence for Laketown because Provence is the quintessential rosé region, and what else would you like to drink by a lake but rosé ? I mean, let's be real.

Winston:  Agreed.

Emma: Yeah, and also so Laketown... It's a port town and Provence is one of the few rosé dominant regions. And so I that's why I chose Provence. Specifically. Is Kitty trying to get in again?

Winston: Uh-uh.

Emma: She's been in and out.

Winston: Yeah.

Emma: She's got a lot of kitty business, just like Gandalf has wizard business.

Winston:  It's true.

Emma: Provence: some of the finest dry rosé in the world -though, I will argue, I believe that Spanish and Italian rosé are just as good if not better. Fight me- but so, some really great Provencal rosé ! To me the quintessential one to try is the Aix or the AIX Rose. We've had that many times. Super dry, super acidic,

Winston: Mmmmmm.

Emma: Just, like, delicious. I was tempted to bring some home tonight. Maybe I'll bring some home later. But-

Winston:  I'm so sad we're having to say goodbye to rosé season now.

Emma: There's no such thing as saying goodbye to rosé season, Winston!

Winston: You're right,  I'm sorry, I'm sorry! I take it back!


Emma:  I'm one of the few who firmly believes that  rosé season lasts all year long. Not to the extent that I drink rosé during the summer, but, like, I do think that roses can be some of the best wines in the world, and- like that Italian rosé a we had a couple weeks ago?

Winston: Mmmmm.

Emma: That's one of my favorite wines, like-

Winston:  Bar-none.

Emma: Yeah, bar-none, and so, yeah. rosé . Laketown. Good stuff. Cool. Oh my God, next we make it to the Lonely Mountain.

Winston: Wait, weren't you going to do producers for Laketown?

Emma: I did, I said the AIX, also the-

Winston: Oh.

Emma: -the other one is Peyrassol spelled P-E-Y-R-A-S-S-O-L. One of the best producers in Provence and they've got many different tiers of rosé so you can get them from like $15 to $50 bottle and that's about, you know, with some exceptions, that's about as expensive as rosé gets. There's a couple others that get a little more expensive but that's a nice thing about rosé is that, you know, the most expensive that you'll ever spend if you're feeling decadent is about $50 a bottle.

Winston: Hmm.

Emma: Which I know that sounds like a lot. But if you look at white and reds from- of similar distinction (whispered) they're a lot more expensive. Next we made it to the Lonely Mountain as I said before! Yay

Winston: Huzzah!

Emma: Hooray! And there's-

Winston: When the thrush knocks!

Emma: And there's a dragon there! So when the hobbit and- the hobbit being Bilbo Baggins, yes- and the dwarves arrive at the Lonely Mountain obviously Bilbo  encounters the Dragon Smaug. And I thought it's only, only right and proper to, to pair a grape with Smaug as well.

Winston: Of course.

Emma: Yeah, and the grape that I've chosen for Smaug is Viognier.

Winston: Nice.

Emma: Yeah. I think it's a good choice for him for a few different reasons. Viognier is one of my favorite grapes, by the way. It's very versatile. It can be really rich and kind of floral and really like, almost like a Chardonnay like people think of Chardonnay, like really buttery and oak-bomby. But it, it can be also really like delicate and floral. Not usually super high in acid, but it's kind of like... It's a fat grape and so it reminds me of Smaug's fatness.

Winston: Yeah, he's huge and... lugubrious and languid. I like Viognier a lot. Someone was pooh-poohing it when we were in California recently, but...

Emma:  But I do really like Viognier, and I think it actually it grows well in weird places like, like, actually, like, we had a Colorado Viognier that was really good.

Winston: Hmm.

Emma: And it has a way of transplanting itself in strange places.

Winston:  Not unlike dragons!

Emma: Exactly! Not unlike Smaug, who took over the Lonely Mountain. Also, I think that Viognier is a grape that sort of... It's kind of growing in popularity, I think that more and more people are recognizing Viognier as a grape that they like.

Winston: Yeah... Well I'm seeing it offered at more and more wineries that we visit too.

Emma: Yeah.

Winston: Whether by itself or as a blend it's just... It's very quaffable.

Emma: It is very quaffable. And it can also be quite intense, like- so it's the primary grape of Condrieu, which is the most prestigious white wine appellation in the Rhone Valley. But- so remember we were talking about the Rhone Valley earlier-

Winston: Yeah!

Emma: -with Beorn. So if we were talking about white wine, we would actually be talking about Viognier a lot,

Winston: Oh! Neato!

Emma: -you know in that region. So yeah, but so anyway, so Viognier has really exploded in popularity recently. Kind of like dragons!

Winston: Well, I don't know. Dragons are a perennial favorite.

Emma: Yeah, dragons have always been popular.

Winston:  Plus when you can get Linderhand Thunderbatch to voice your Dragon, it's hard to go wrong.

Emma: I bet he likes a good Viognier.

Winston: Yeah. He probably does.

Emma: Yep. So we're at the Lonely Mountain and the region that I chose for the Lonely Mountain is Chablis. Chablis is a region in Burgundy and it's one of the best white wine regions in the world and most Chablis, if not all Chablis, are made from the Chardonnay grape. I chose this for a few different reasons and it's a little convoluted, so bear with me. One is that- okay- Chardonnay... Chardonnay in Chablis is very different from Chardonnay in California... Talk about California, talk about gold.

Winston: Mmmm...

Emma: Chardonnay. Gold. California. Gold. Smaug.

Emma & Winston: Gold.

Winston: (simultaneous) I get it, I get it there's a theme.

Emma: (simultaneous) You got it, you got the connection? Okay, cool, but we're only talking about European wines for this episode, so, forgive me for cheating on that a little bit there.

Winston: I understand. (raps) I can't fold, I need gold, I re-up and reload, product must be sold to you. Sorry, that's a rap there

Emma: You have, you have to give credit for who wrote that.

Winston: Oh, that's um, I believe the GZA.

(Emma laughs)

He's from, uh, the Clan of Wu-Tang. The Wu-Tang Clan.

(Emma still laughs)

I just thought it was thematically appropriate.

Emma: It is  thematically appropriate! Nothing is more thematically appropriate than Wu-Tang Clan. Okay, but I'm also going to bring this back to Chablis.

Winston: Okay.

Emma: You talk about, or Tolkien talks a lot about the artisty- (enunciates) artistry. I've had a few glasses of wine.

Winston: I don't know what you're talking about.

Emma: Artistry of dwarves, and they create a lot of beautiful jewels and you know the- and they're also very covetous of these things which leads them into trouble. So talking about great artistry: Chablis and Burgundy are considered some of the best wine regions in the world and you really think of the winemakers in these regions as artists. And so I want to talk about Chablis as like, you know, the art-art-artistry of the dwarves.

Winston: The true Artisans.

Emma: Yes.

Winston: Yes.

Emma:  And (sighs) it's very hard to find an inexpensive Burgundy. But. I found one. (laughs)

Winston:  That was a great story. (Emma still laughing) That's way better than I found five dollars. I found a cheap Burgundy.

Emma: No, it's not cheap, but it's like $20 a bottle as opposed to $50 a bottle.

Winston:  From now on I end all my bad jokes that way: "I found a nice bottle of Burgundy for cheap!"

Emma: (laughs) But anyway-

Winston: For a shekel!

Emma: But anyways, so, um, we got in the Paul Nicolle Chablis which is really wonderful and we got it... I don't know if we just got a really great deal on it or if it's just a good deal in general. But Paul Nicole is a great producer. My other personal favorite producer in Chablis is Pattes Loup. I have a couple of empty bottles of Pattes Loup up on our little shelf there

Winston: Oh, with the tophats on them?

Emma: Yeah. Yeah, and so part of why I love these wines is that they're amazing and fantastic, but another is that they've got gorgeous artwork on the labels and so "Pattes Loup" means... Something Wolf. "Loup" means wolf in French. And  so there's a wolf on one label and an angel on another label.

Winston: Nice.

Emma: And so I've  got a wolf and an angel.

Winston: How is it spelled, Pattes? The word you're talkin' about?

Emma: P-A-T-T-E-S.

Winston: Oh. I have no idea.

Emma: We could look it up real quick, but I'm not going to. And on that note, we're done with The Hobbit.

Winston: Nice!

Emma: Yeah, so, you know, there's a return journey because -spoiler alert- The Hobbit is also subtitled There and Back Again

Winston: A Hobbits Holiday.

Emma: A Hobbit's Tale. And a Hobbit's Holiday.

Winston: My B.

Emma: It is "A Hobbit's Holiday," I think, but in the movie, he goes: "There and Back Again: A Hobbit's Tale by Bilbo Baggins."

Winston: Yeah. I really only know it because I, um, I grew up watching the animated Hobbit movie.

Emma: Which is amazing! Way better than the live-action.

Winston: Yeah. Oh my God so much better. But I remember like all the songs from it, and-

Emma: Would you like to give us a sample, say of the Goblin Town soun- The Goblin Town song?

Winston: Oh, um-

Emma: I think kitty needs to come in. (door opens)

Winston: I forget most of it but,

Emma: (straining) Uh oh!

Winston: Oops, sorry. (scuffling) But it definitely-

Emma: Nope, she's just lounging (laughs)

Winston: The, like, refrain is: (singing in a deep voice) Down Down to Goblin Town, Down Down the Goblin Town (sings just sounds). I forget what they say in the actual like poem thing.

Emma: (simultaneous) Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Winston: But, and then the the one where they chase them up the trees is like very cheery and it's like, um

Emma: Oh yeah...

Winston: (singing) Fifteen birds, dum, dum, dum, dum, Oh what should we do, with funny little things?

Emma: (simultaneous, laughing) Yeah, yeah

Winston: And they're like riding wolves and carrying torches.

Emma: Yeah.

Winston: (singing) Oh what should we do? They have no wings. It's pretty great.

(Emma laughing)

Emma: Oh, it's great. And just to close out this Hobbit segment of this series: one of the great things about Tolkien, and part of why I think this is a perfect way to open the podcast, is that he loved poetry and he loved music so much and you can tell that if you read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings that's an inherent part of those books and... And so for Tolkien we include- we talk about poetry, we talk about music, we talk about mythology, and we drink wine while we do it. Thanks Tolkien.

Winston: Thanks J.R.R.

Emma: Yeah. We'll be back soon, with, The Fellowship of the Ring

(outro music)


Emma: Pairing was created and produced by Emma Sherr-Ziarko with music and audio recording by Winston Shaw, and Logo artwork by Darcy Zimmerman and Katie Huey.

I am your host Emma Sherr-Ziarko, and tonight. I was joined by Winston Shaw. If you'd like more information, links, and clarifications on what we talked about this episode, please visit our blog on our website at thepairingpodcast.com. Follow us on Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, and Instagram at PairingPodcast to keep tabs on what we're up to.

Feel free to send us any thoughts, questions, requests, and pairings of your own on our website, or on any social media platform. If you enjoyed the show, please consider leaving us a review on iTunes and sharing with your friends. Thank you so much for listening. Til next time, cheers.