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Litscope: Sagittarius & ‘Foot Trodden: Portugal and the Wines that Time Forgot’

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Can you believe we’re at the end of another year? If you’re like me, it’s not sugarplum fairies, but thoughts of new years’ resolutions that dance in your head. And what a great time to start pondering them—this month’s astrological skies are fairly clear after December 4th’s solar eclipse in Sagittarius. It was the final eclipse on the Gemini/Sagittarius axis that has been happening for over a year and a half, signifying the ending of a cycle.

The Gemini full moon is on the way on the 18th, but most importantly Venus will retrograde on December 19 until January 29. My advice? Avoid making major grooming decisions, such as dyeing your hair pink or scheduling plastic surgery appointments, during this time. It’s smarter to wait and make plans to strike after the retrograde ends.

Late November to late December brings us goal-oriented Sagittarius season. If you haven’t heard all the bottles popping this December, you haven’t been listening. This sign, symbolized by the centaur, is always depicted holding a bow and arrow aimed at the sky. An archer is oh-so apropos for the fire sign that aims high with their lofty goals and, with the luck of their home planet Jupiter, usually accomplishes them.

These flexible and curious individuals are usually extroverts, not shy about communicating their expectations to their friends and partners. Sometimes you might be burned by their bluntness, but this is a small price to pay for their upbeat attitude. And don’t overlook their love of travel and learning. You might just find them backpacking across Bali or exploring sea coves in Aruba. They simply love exploring uncharted territory.

 

Interior image from Foot Trodden

Speaking of that Sagittarian love of travel, this month’s book is Foot Trodden: Portugal and the Wines that Time Forgot by Ryan Opaz and Simon J. Woolf. Loosely organized by regions of Portugal from north to south, this book is an ideal traveler’s companion. While the first chapter’s pace is a bit slower than the rest, it’s crucial for wine experts Opaz and Woolf to set the historical scene and arm readers with plenty of foundational basics and other juicy tidbits.

In addition to learning all about early cooperative wineries, vinho seco (homemade simple wine), Fado music, and the Portuguese grapes Hendrix drank, I also learned about Estado Novo, the authoritarian regime led by António de Oliveira Salazar from 1933 to 1974, and how this influenced the wine industry. While Estado Novo was “pro-corporatism and did not stand in the way of proven and profitable enterprise, when it came to wine regions that were seen to be inefficient or inconsistent in terms of their production quality, government was swift.”

More than a hodge-podge of history gained while gallivanting around Portugal, the book is a love song to the growers and keepers of the age-old tradition of winemaking. This is what Foot-Trodden does best. When the authors introduce us to the process of biodynamics, which rejects any synthetic inputs to the field or vineyard, they focus on one of biodynamics’ early pioneers, Vasco Croft. They outline Croft’s indirect life path to winemaking and somehow end up painting a picture-perfect vision of his winery. I wanted to grab my wallet and swiftly buy a ticket to Quinta Casal do Paço, where “you might catch sight of a flock of sheep as they come for a munch of the grass between the rows.”

 

Interior image from Foot Trodden

In addition to the winemakers’ intimate stories, Foot Trodden contains photographs that simply jump off the page, making it a lovely holiday gift for the traveler or wine aficionado in your family. A few of my favorite pics are of feet stomping grapes, winemaker Sara Dionisio and her fluffy white dog Bolinha, and the huge Talha vessel (a clay pot known from Portugal’s Alentejo region) nestled in an outdoor shed. 

The pictures emblazon Portuguese people and their stories in readers’ minds for an important purpose. If it wasn’t clear already, Opaz and Woolf confess their agenda later in Foot Trodden: “The rules, regulations and stylistic requirements that once helped drive quality now stifle innovation and diversity in winemaking and wine styles.” And this statement doesn’t feel pedantic or preachy at this point in the book—the authors have earned the right to their thesis by profiling all of the glorious folks whose hands (and feet) create these tasty wines. 

Although I’ve never been to Portugal, it’s been on my bucket list for quite some time. Foot Trodden inspires readers to travel to Portugal to drink some wonderful wines—and imbibe a rich culture of people who have preserved their dedication to the land, despite a complicated history that appears to be more concerned with regulation than the product. So, if you’re looking for a stocking stuffer (especially if you have a Sag that you haven’t shopped for) this book is sure to delight. 

This brings us to the final tarot card of 2021. The collective received The World reversed. The World is one of the 22 major arcana cards, or trump cards as some call them, and the image from the Rider Waite deck shows a naked female figure dancing inside a wreath, holding two wands. In the four corners of the card are an eagle, lion, bull, and cherub or angel. Whenever we draw this card, even in reverse, an ending has taken place. However, with the hectic nature of the holidays and the rise of the new Omicron variant in the news, we may feel a bit stuck. Maybe we achieved all our goals and still feel a bit deflated. Never fear—while there might be a few delays in our futures (and harder work ahead), ultimately we’ve completed an important cycle. Remember, after every good ending lies an exciting new beginning.  

 

Interior image from Foot Trodden
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