Tuesday, March 10, 2009

March 10: On Wine

Today's Kerouaction

So what kind of wine would Kerouac drink? He mentions Tokay in The Dharma Bums:
Pretty soon we headed into another siding at a small railroad town and I figured I needed a poorboy of Tokay wine to complete the cold dusk run to Santa Barbara.

The Beat Museum says the following in a Kerouac bio:
His drink of choice was a jug of the kind of cheap, sweet wine, Tokay or Thunderbird, usually preferred by winos.

So what is Tokay, and can we still buy it?

Answers.com says that "tokay" means "a large, oval California table grape (also called Flame Tokay) with a thick red skin and bland-tasting flesh with seeds. Tokays are available from August through December. They're also sometimes used to make wine of the same name." It goes on to say it is also the name of a sweet white wine from Hungary's Tokay region. I doubt Jack was referring to the latter.

Given his affinity for living on the cheap and hanging out with bums and winos and tramps, etc., a cheap table wine from California had to be what he was talking about.

Can we still get Tokay from those California grapes?

Well, yes. But now it's called Muscadelle because of an action by the Hungarians (according to Wine Exchange).

Wine Dictionary says, "Some Muscadelle is grown in Australia, where it's known as Tokay and often used in dessert wines called liqueur Tokays. Small amounts of it are grown in California, where it's known as Sauvignon Vert."

Appellation America confirms that the what is called Sauvignon Vert in California is a Muscadelle, and this grape is experiencing decreasing acreage in California.

I'm no wine expert, but it seems like the modern version of Jack's Tokay is most likely the Chambers Muscadelle Tokay (the only brand I found on-line). Today's Kerouaction: Get your hands on some today and drink some wine that Jack favored.

P.S. Don't ask me what a poorboy is. I thought it was a New Orleans sandwich. What Jack meant is anyone's guess.

1 comment:

Rick Perry said...

I think poorboy refers to a specific size bottle for a set budget price. When you're poor and your goal is to get a buzz, you're looking at bang for your buck. Certain deals become your goto.

Today people (at least in my circles) refer to 16oz cans of cheap beer as poorboys. The kind you might see a homeless fellow drinking in an alley, or a working man sipping in a paperbag in his pickup truck on the way home from work anywhere in the USA.