Sunday, March 13, 2011

Music & Wine

I read a blog post last week that caught my interest because it was about the fourth dimension of wine tasting (sight, smell, taste are the first three), sound. The author‘s take on the sound dimension had to do with closures, and specifically the sound made by a cork being extricated from a wine bottle. I personally don’t pay much attention to that occasion and from my sommelier training it is clear that learning how to uncork wine (and especially Champagne) with little to no sound is desired. The author DID present an idea that I can get behind, but I have another way to spin the sound dimension with wine. And that would be through music.

The obvious scenarios that come right to mind would be pairing music with a casual glass of wine and friends, or with a romantic meal. Both are situations where the overall experience can be more than the sum of its parts, and the right music could definitely be a contributing factor. But those aren’t the only ways I pair music and wine.

As a winemaker I often have stints in the “shop”, kitchen, basement, spare rooms, etc, where I am might be cleaning equipment, working with a batch of wine, cleaning bottles to be filled, running blending trials, doing tasting of my own or commercial wines or writing up my experiences to share with you. At those times my “wine” music is important in a whole different way. The right music infuses my body and soul with energy, provides imagery for me to explore as I work, and allows me to focus on the task at hand. I am quite certain that batches of wines I have made have been imbued with an essence of the music I was listening to when I did one thing or another with them.

Now if I just stopped here you would be left thinking, “that is all well and good, but why did I just waste time reading that?” And you would be right. I haven't yet provided any examples.

Wine and food pairing is all about the juxtaposition of aromas, flavors and textures between food and beverages to create experiences. So it is with music and wine pairing when you get down to thinking about it. Here are three experiences I have created as examples of this idea.

As I write this article I am listening to a CD entitled “Buddha Hookah Lounge”. This disc which is a collection of remixes designed for lounge and bar listening. You will have to go with this if you aren’t familiar the genre. I have a lot of it and it works really well in the casual drinking and romantic dinner pairings as well. One song in particular is a remix of the 80’s dance song “Let The Music Play” by Shannon. In the background of the remix are guitar riffs from Gimme Shelter by the Rolling Stones. What! No, seriously. Here is why this song worked for me while I wrote this. The Rolling Stones make me think of my childhood when my dad would play records out the back window while we played in the yard or worked in the garden. Those were simpler times and remembering that helped me be clear and concise, think simple, as I wrote. “Let The Music Play” was pretty peppy originally, but the remixed version has some real zip to it which drove me to think and type fast. I had an idea I wanted to get out and the music helped it flow. Combine those two facets and you get what you are reading.

Here is more classic example of pairing music and wine, actually homemade cider with friends. In 2009 I made 35 gallons of hard cider. In April of 2010 we had a cider party with friends to celebrate the release of the liquid gold. Rather than bottle some of it ahead of time I siphoned an entire 6 gallon carboy (glass jug) into a bucket with a spigot and let people serve themselves. Being able to walk up and fill a cup off the “tap” was so “delightfully trashy” to steal a phrase from fellow food blogger Janis. But it was so much fun! For the music we cranked up Kid Rock “All Summer Long”. That song is a look back to fun and freewheeling times through the recollections of the protagonist, and specifically of summertime. The mood that song set was perfect for the cider. It was early spring, still cold in New England, and the music and cider took us to that warm and fun-filled place we could all see on the horizon. We drank a lot of cider, and as the night grew long there were volumes of laughs to go around. I always think of cranking up Kid Rock now when I open a bottle of my cider.

I didn’t finish this article on the bus ride home a few days ago, and it is a lucky thing. Yesterday morning I set about to create a batch of plum wine using plums we had purchased and frozen last summer. For music I selected the disc “The Hopeful Machines” by BT. BT is an electronica legend known for his classical composer like focus on his creations which are high tech in their construction. “These Hopeful Machines” was presented as two tracks with slightly under 1 hour run-time each. The individual songs within those tracks were designed to be listened to together, are heavily textured and offer a diversity of styles within the electronic music space. As I sat down to pit 15 pounds of defrosting plums I very much appreciated the journey the music was taking me on. The track “Love Can Kill You" has thought the provoking lyrics of “love can kill you, or love can save us all.” As I sat their doing something I love, making wine, it made me realize the truth in the story about how I came to make my own wine. After my cancer treatment (in 2003) my wife asked me if I would like to pick up a hobby instead of working all the time. I choose making my own beer and wine. Her love for me and her desire for me to appreciate getting the chance to stick around in this world had saved me. I was miserable when I worked all the time, but I thought I loved it. With my hobby firmly integrated into my life now it is much more clear what I enjoy spending my time doing. I of course still work in IT during the day, but at night and on the weekends I eat, drink, make wine/cider/beer and write about my adventures. Way more fun!

I hope you enjoyed my stories about the sounds of wine (or cider & beer too!) that I experience on my adventures. How do you pair music in your life? Do you have music you like to listen to when you sit down and have a casual drink?



1 comment:

Pam @ Sticks Forks Fingers said...

Thanks for this exciting topic, Jason. Here's some of my current favorites to listen to while cooking and drinking wine. They're not everyone's cup of tea, but that's how music goes.

Jonatha Brooke, The Works (Jonatha got the rights to Woodie Guthrie's stunning poetry and put it to some exceptionally cool music.)

Joanna Newsom, The Milk-Eyed Mender remains one of my favorite albums, but her new one, Have One On Me, is delicious as well. Some people leave the room for these, but not me. Love the quirk, love the poetry, love the whimsy, love the harp.

Then, there's the long mix disc I put together a couple years ago that I can't leave alone. Hard to describe... from Bruce Cockburn's Last Night of The World, which makes me cry every time, to Pachabel's Canon, to Nora Jones, and Lou Reed.

It is a very cool thing to just get in the zone with the task and the music and the scents and the whole experience, as you say. I'll have to check your picks out on YouTube or iTunes.

And as for the sound of popping corks, I become Pavlov's dog. I come running, drooling at that sound!!!