Unbroken resilience meets South Australian riches

Sep 11th, 2012 Jayne Pearce ,

This months’ reviewed book was not the sort to be washed down lightly with a wine glass full of something nondescript and fleeting. I needed a wine that was large and robust enough to suit the conversation. I guess I could have gone with a serious claret but circumstances are not always that amenable to me, namely the price tag. A couple of well appointed wines from South Australian seemed like as good a wine region as any to serve the perfect support act while discussing this incredible man’s journey.


“Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand is a biographical account of a child delinquent, come Olympian, come bombardier and consequential American POW during WW2. I was concerned it wouldn’t be the sort of book I could appreciate beachside during the summer break. I needn’t have worried about location as Louis Zamperini’s incredible life totally consumed me. I could have been on the deck of an ice breaker and wouldn’t have noticed. The writers talent transported me from the safe extremes of my sun lounger to a world in turmoil and devastation, and - through the use of some engaging piece of creative prose - I quite simply could not put this book down. With a tightly woven plot and a bullet-proof build-up, it read like a powerful piece of fiction but for one significant difference. Unbroken uncovered the shocking rawness of truth that is creatively threaded into every sentence.

It is from here that I humbly introduce the first of our two very bold wines. The first is a grape that never fails to impress, especially when it is given to a room of Californian Chardonnay-trained taste buds. Viognier is full-bodied enough not to disappoint those oaked chardonnay die-hards reluctant to stray from boldness. It does have enough of an appealing identity of its own for some experimentation. Those seeking a rich yet fresh food matcher will not be disappointed by  the 2011 South Australia Yalumba Viognier (Bevmo; $9.99). It has a pristine pale straw appearance with a nose packed full with exotic summertime fragrances such as honeysuckle, jasmin and mandarin peel.  The rich body gives way to a balanced and fresh acidity with grapefruit and lemongrass and a fabulous length that really does linger. Like I said, I do think it is a food wine not least because of the 13.5% alcohol. Jen, our host for eve was serving BBQ shrimp kebabs and I thought the Viognier made for a great accompaniment. You could even grill the shrimps with a little chili and I think the Viognier could handle it.

Next up was wine number two, the 2011 South Australia Layer Cake Shiraz (Bevmo; $16.99). I had tried this wine before and so wanted to give it another go but with some dark chocolate this time and see how it worked out. The intensely fruit and spice-driven nose gave way to a rather savoury palate which was quite appealing. The Ghirardelli 86% intense dark chocolate I chose was far too bitter to be complementary with the wine.  Another dark chocolate from Trader Jo’s with salt and pepper came to the rescue and worked really well with the savoury black olive and mocha flavours on the palate. They were a very well suited pair.

Back to the book and not even a few glasses of South Australia could do the enormous subject of this compelling book the attention it deserved. There were so many subject areas up for discussion, not least Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PSTD), the adoption of God and the post war relations between the US and Japan. As a way of dealing with her own debilitating chronic fatigue syndrome, Laura Hillenbrand wrote this incredibly uplifting biography about Louis Zamperini’s dramatic journey through life.

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