Pairing wine and music really doesn’t make any sense, or does it? If you are looking for a yard stick to measure the qualities of a wine, the 100 point system appears to be an arbitrary system that has gained conventional acceptance. But maybe a yard stick isn’t the way to go about discussing wine. I think the yard stick is a really closed ended conversation on wine. Maybe wine has too many dimensions to be discussed on a single finite plane. I sure think so. Once you have that score all you hear is the thud of the book closing and the lights being switched off without any need for discussion as the final judgement has been rendered.
Wine and music matching is not about about measuring qualities, it is a leap into the great unknown and the pursuit of value in each wine being paired with music. If it had it’s own sound, it would the sound of a turntable stylus touching down on vinyl – a pop that snaps you to attention, an invitation to an experience as the black platter unravels tales of passion, sorrow, disappointment, glory and discovery at 33 and 1/3 rpm.
Every wine and music pairing I publish is the result of the same question I ask myself about each one of these wines: What is the winemaker trying to express? A good wine, made by a caring winemaker is an expression of an ideal, just like any other piece of art. My point of view is that conventional wine-speak is simply an inappropriate language to explore those expressions. The Mona Lisa is much more than a 100 point “Oil on Canvas.” Technically correct, it fails to express what the master painter da Vinci had in mind when he put brush to canvas.
As one of the leading proponents in pairing wine and music, I don’t feel the need to make you agree with me. I would be crazy to think your experience with a particular wine will be same as mine, let alone your interpretation of my choice of tune. What my job to do is simply explain what the experience of this wine made me think of, give you enough explanation to understand my train of thought and offer you some ideas for counterpart or agreement.
The best compliments that I get are from folks who say they really got my wine and music match, and no other song could embody that wine better. I even had a wine producer from France tell me that the musical match that I had selected has been a favourite of hers since her teenage years and she listens to it often while going about her wine making business. Coincidence? Probably.
We all may be chasing virtuosity from our wines, but is that virtuosity personified by Mozart, Louis Armstrong or Curt Cobain? Is it in the angelic voice of Sarah McLachlan or the rasp of Tom Waits? Check out Sarah’s cover of Mr. Waits’ “Ol’ 55”(videos below) and you will see how tone, voice and character affect the overall personality of a piece of music – now transpose that notion to the discussions of terroir, wine making traditions and fermented grape juice.
Music, like wine also works in conjunction with people you are gathered with. Your budget and the tastes of your guests will dictate if you are going to be serving a single vineyard wine from the classic regions of Europe and the New World or if you are going to aiming for a lower priced regional blend. Given that there is a time and a place for everything, you might not dust off your Dark Side Of The Moon at a Cordon Bleu dinner party. Is Ravel’s Bolero appropriate for celebrating your parents’ 50th wedding anniversary? They may say yes, you may shudder at the thought. Welcome to the fun world of matching wine and music!
If you look at the different grape varieties that make the wines you love like Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, Merlot, Riesling or Zinfandel, you can see them as the instruments that form orchestras, ensembles or duets. Perhaps there are moments when you wish to hear a soloist perform, or when you need the charge of a large orchestra. And if you are fan of the violin, you may have days when you desire to hear the crisp classical playing of a Leila Josefowicz, Stephane Grapellis’ whimsical Gypsy Jazz or you might be a fan of the smell of burning horse tail that can only be delivered with Nashville style fiddling. Wine and music are the same thing. Blends exist – great performances are delivered from the the famous and the obscure alike.
Wine and Music matching isn’t about telling you what I thought about the wine, it is an open ended discussion on what the wine made us think about – once you get into it you will see that it might be the best way out there of understanding wine. Or maybe I’m just crazy.