One of the great things I’ve noticed about the wine industry, at least the London wine scene, over the past few years is the growing sense of fun. Time and again I hear people repeat the phrase “we just want to make wine accessible, man, to make it available to everyone.” And it’s nice to see that, largely, this has been happening. I see more consumer wine events popping up in wine bars around town – in fact there are more wine bars popping up around town – and the style of events can range from simple tastings, to chocolate & wine parings, to guided get-to-know-a-region evenings. Anyone who’s seen Annabel Greene’s Wine PT sessions, “Getting you fit on wine” can certainly agree that wine tastings aren’t the stuffy, snooty affairs of the old days (“Butt Clenching Big Ones”, anyone?!).
I’m a big fan of food and wine matching evenings – no matter how much you think you know there’s always a new combination to stumble upon, a delectable delight to discover. Valpolicella with pizza? Yes please. A huge slab of stinky cheese and a sticky, sweet wine? Don’t mind if I do. And while there’s still plenty of fun to be had with food and wine, one’s mind eventually drifts to other pairing possibilities. One such possibility to explore is wine and music.
Much like food and wine pairing, where notes and nuances in one can lift subtle characters in the other, music can affect and enhance the flavours of wine. Studies have proven that music can affect our perception of our surroundings as well as objects and experiences within it.
It’s fair to say it works the other way around too, and wine can most definitely influence the perception of musical quality. I’ve found myself swaying to the odd Rihanna track from time to time after one too many glasses of the good stuff.
The relationship between wine and music isn’t a new phenomenon. Classic FM have before carried out an entire tasting event exploring the effect of classical music with fine wines, and I once participated in an event that involved matching wines to the four parts of Wagner’s Ring Cycle. But it doesn’t need to be that serious. Remember what we said earlier about ‘fun’?
And so I present my Top 5 pairings of aural and oral pleasures – those that, for me, could just be the Château d'Yquem and foie gras of wine & music.
1. Starting in Burgundy, let’s take a mature Gevrey-Chambertin. There’s something about really good, old Burgundy that begs time to consider the wine in the glass. That elegance and restraint. With age, fruit gives way to earth and the wine takes on animalistic characters. Smoke and leather entwine like wisps of cigarette smoke to create complex, moody, brooding wines. What could be a more perfect match than the distinctive voice of Tom Waits, once famously described as sounding “as if it had been soaked in a vat of bourbon and left hanging in a smokehouse”? And just as with Burgundy through the years, the voice has lent itself to a variety of styles, settling in maturity to smoldering and thoughtful. Lyrics depict dark characters, mysterious and at times difficult to understand. But always captivating.
2. Let’s look now to another Burgundy region, with Le Grappin Savigny-lès-Beaune blanc. A region usually known for its red wines, but Le Grappin like to do things a little differently. Working with under appreciated plots of vines, the results are superb. Wines with enhanced elegance, fresh minerality and purity – yet with tension and nervy precision. FKA Twigs challenges the status quo with her style. Her music is quietly powerful, ghostly yet grounded and perfectly matches the graceful strength of this wine. Enigmatic, raw, and both establishing a cult following. Not to mention that both are strikingly beautiful in presentation.
3. Ridge Estate Merlot is of course the perfect partner to a bit of Jimi Hendrix. That smooth Californian merlot, full bodied with dark fruit character, tannins and power demands attention. It takes a true showman like Hendrix, with his own power and charisma, to stand up to this. Those explosive guitar solos, that sexy American drawl that licks around the lyrics. A match made in heaven.
4. We all know New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc would be the pop song. The Number One, the incessant, repetitive, but god damn catchy tune that we love to hate, and that will seemingly never be knocked off the top spot. Katy Perry’s ‘Teenage Dream’, loud, brash and offensively simple, but, ultimately well made and technically without faults. Popular in nightclubs and hen parties, but occasionally one comes along that lives up to the hype and shows us what all the fuss is about.
5. Dão Titular Encruzado Malvasia Fino Branco. This obscure blend is best left to the hipsters. They ‘liked the earlier vintages’, but have gone off it now it’s becoming ‘mainstream’. A wine of great complexity, this is obviously best matched with the band – well – you probably haven’t heard of them anyway…
Abbie Moulton has worked in the wine trade since moving to London 7 years ago and is a freelance food & drink writer for The Sartorial Guide. She has just taken on the role as Editor for the French publication Le Bonbon which recently launched in London. Follow her on Twitter & Instagram @abbieinWine @abbieinLDN