This review is different from any other wine review on this site. In fact, it’s not even a review as much as it is an experiment. It’s not about introducing you to a new wine. It’s about experiencing music with a wine and seeing what effect it has.
For those who don’t know, there are hundreds of wine bloggers like me, around the world, and several of them take part in a monthly event called Wine Blogging Wednesday. It’s a time when we all write about the same topic and give our own spin on it. And this month our spin is taking a different twist as we explore how music impacts the taste of wine. As always, there is a host for the event who will summarize all the contributions to help you find and enjoy them all. And the lucky host is Katie Pizzuto at Gonzo Gastronomy.
I do see a relationship between wine and music, so the idea of this concept didn’t seem outlandish to me. But I usually think about music and wine a different way. I process smells and tastes in my mind in a similar way to sounds. When I taste a wine I mentally relate the characteristics to pitch, tone and harmony just as I would for music. For example, a spicy note or acidity in a wine might make me think of a high pitch note, while dark fruit is more in the bass range. And the combination of aromas and scents could be dissonant (off balance) or harmonious (well balanced).
While I process wine in a way that’s related to music, I have never done wine pairings with music. And although the idea didn’t seem outlandish, I did have a bit of skepticism. Part of me thinks that if I think a wine is great, it will be great no matter what music is playing. I was surprised with the differences I noticed with the wine as I went through some different music. I did notice a profound difference. That said, I still am skeptical that you can do wine/music pairings, beyond personal pairings, given how personal preference influences musical tastes much more dramatically than wine tastes in my opinion. I suppose a larger experiment would need to be done with several individuals, tasting the same wine and listening to the same music to prove if musical pairings are consistent among individuals.
I decided to revisit an old favorite wine along with some old favorite tunes for this experiment. The wine I chose is the 2005 André Brunel Cuvée Sabrine, my top pick from a series on Cotes du Rhone last fall. After posting the review I was disappointed that the shop where I had purchased had run out, but thanks to an e-mail from a helpful reader I learned that the importer still had the wine in their warehouse, so I gave a heads up to the shop and they restocked it. I’m glad to enjoy another bottle of this wine.
The first artist I thought of with this wine was John Coltrane. I used to be a big Coltrane nut. Before the Internet sucked all the culture out of my life I would listen to Coltrane, read some Charles Bukowski or Richard Brautigan and sip on some cheap, but good wine (well, good for my standards at the time). I popped in Coltrane Jazz and it immediately clicked. The smokey jazz pulled out a smokey and velvety quality in the wine. Now, that album is one of the more mainstream and approachable ones from Coltrane, who was very experimental at times. I switched over to a chaotic experimental jazz song called Tranesonic from the Stellar Regions album and the acidity in the wine became more pronounced to me—in fact, uncomfortably so. Although I like the experimental jazz from Coltrane, this wine isn’t a match for it. It goes much better with his smoother, classic jazz.
I next switched to some drum and bass music from my favorite techno artist Luke Vibert. You probably have never heard of him, but I assure you he is a master at generating awesome beats, perfect for “kicking it.” Vibert has put out music under several different names and I went back to one of his earlier works under the Plug name with an album called Drum’n'Bass for Papa, which has some outstanding breakbeat riffs. This music brought me back to some of the smokey and velvety notes I was getting from the mellow Coltrane, but also spice and a wisp of bright red raspberry comes to life with this pairing. This is the point at which this review became challenging… once I started riffing to Plug I didn’t want to move beyond it, but rather wanted to keep enjoying this wine along with it. But I must move on, in the name of good blogging. And so, I put the music into shuffle to see what came up.
Did I mention that my musical taste is all over the map? There’s a lot of old punk, rock, jazz, metal and techno in my collection. The next one surprised me, Bad Brains, Sailin’ On, an outstanding punk classic, totally rocks with this wine. The fruit flavors seemed to really pop with this song.
Next on the music shuffle is a band called At the Drive-in. The song Honest to a Fault from the El Gran Orgo album gave me a sense that the tannins were a bit overpowering.
Descendents, Get the Time from their Enjoy! album seemed to have no impact on the flavors. The wine took on all the characteristics as it had in my original review. That makes you wonder if I was listening to this when I first tasted it, well that’s highly unlikely as I normally take tasting notes in silence… it helps me concentrate.
Tool, Jimmy from Aenima was next and the wine seemed sour and bitter.
firehose, is one of my favorite bands of all time. The length of the wine became pronounced as I listened to Brave Captain from their debut album Ragin’, Full-On. It could just be that I’ve been sampling this wine for an hour now and the flavors are settling in on my palate. There’s a subtle strawberry note in this wine and it’s lingering on the finish as I listen to this song… and I really like it.
Frank Zappa, Son of Mr. Green Genes from Hot Rats gave the wine a bitter characteristic.
Ween, Demon Sweat from The Pod showed a combination of smoky, fruity, slightly bitter.
OK. I could go on forever with this. Get me listening to music and drinking wine and you’re in for a long spiel. I guess I have learned from this experiment that music can have a dramatic influence on your tasting experience with a wine. More dramatic than I anticipated. Give this experiment a try for yourself and have fun with it.