In these unusual times, we all need a lift from time to time. As a change to my usual wine reviews I’ve decided to start a fun and irreverent series on matching wine and music. The basic idea is that I give participants:
- A piece of music –> they suggest a wine to go with it, with an explanation
- A wine –> they suggest a piece of music to go with it
It’s all for fun, so please don’t slag off anybody’s taste music (or wine!) Thanks to Michelle Williams for the inspiration – she has been matching songs to wine for years on her Rockin Red Blog.
Our guest for the 18th installment of the Frankly Wines and Friends Wine & Music Series is a fellow English wine enthusiast and blogger, David Crossley. David started his blog just after me, though he has a long involvement in the wine scene. I enjoy reading his pieces as his writing is so easy to read and takes you on a journey; heck, I’d probably read his review of knitting patterns if he was so minded.
The song I chose for David was based on his recent Instagram “location” – Road to Nowhere – which I assume is a reference to our current lockdown but also referencing the Talking Heads song – which I still have on 7″ single somewhere. It wasn’t the first Talking Heads song I heard but it was the one which cemented my appreciation of them and their amazing lunatic singer David Byrne.
David and I share an appreciation for Alsace, though his is much more focused on the natural wines produced in the north of the region. When looking through the wines he had reviewed previously there was one that jumped out – an old vine Sylvaner. Sylvaner is an under-appreciated grape but can be wonderful in the right hands, especially when made from old vines. The odd but funny thing for me is that this wine is labelled “Vieille Vigne” singular – are the wines of such small production because they come from a single vine? Perhaps, but probably not…
When Frankie asked me to contribute to this Series of wine and music connections I think I initially misunderstood the brief, but looking at the track and the wine he sent me I saw a real connection between the two, so I thought I’d subvert the usual format (which he will think is typical me) and write about the two together.
Talking Heads – Road to Nowhere
I became a Talking Heads fan after seeing them perform Psycho Killer on the Old Grey Whistle Test, and I managed to see them in London a couple of times when they subsequently visited the UK (Fear of Music and Remain in Light Tours). Road to Nowhere is from their sixth (1985) album, Little Creatures, by which time MTV had magnified their stardom.
The song is very David Byrne, beginning with the lyric “Well, we know where we’re going but we don’t know where we’ve been”. A poppy number, The Heads in marching beat with a bit of Cajun squeeze adding a jauntiness, and you can just see Byrne dad-dancing down a long and empty road in somewhere like Utah. A classic single, when singles meant something (peaking at Number 6).
Domaine Rietsch Sylvaner Vieille Vigne
Jean-Pierre Rietsch is a member of the “Mittelbergheim School”, named after a village in Alsace’s Bas-Rhin department. This part of Alsace has always been unloved by the older wine writers who pin whatever Alsace passion they have on the tourist villages to the south, around Colmar. But not only is Mittelbergheim a centre of excellence and excitement in the renaissance of the region through its emerging natural wine scene, it is also hosts some of the best sites for that much maligned member of the Alsace grape family, Sylvaner.
Jean-Pierre’s VV version is a multi-vintage wine, the one I have before me being blended from the 2015 and 2016 vintages. It’s a natural wine, fermented with ambient yeasts, aged on its lees and bottled with minimal sulphur. What you get is concentrated and mineral. If you want to try French Sylvaner at its very best, take the step up to his cuvée from the Zotzenberg Cru, the finest site in the country for this variety. But the “Vieille Vigne” really isn’t far behind. Fresh acids and texture dominate, but it’s clean, pure, and alive, yet with depth as well.
For the old timers pondering the (undoubted) glories of Hugel and Trimbach down south, the wine route up to Andlau, Mittelbergheim and beyond really does seem like the road to nowhere. But anyone familiar with Alsace natural wine from the bars of London, Berlin, Tokyo, San Francisco, Paris and beyond will know that this is where the excitement lies. The wild frontier lies even further to the north these days, but there’s no doubt that Alsace is really happening. Get too stuck in and you will be on the road to (financial) ruin.
David turned his obsession with wine into a blog, wideworldofwine.co in 2014, after a number of years as co-organiser of the Oddities wine events. These, and the blog, focus on the wider reaches of the wine world where boundaries are pushed and new ideas and philosophies tested. His passions are probably Jura, Austria and Alsace’s natural wines, with growing interest in Czechia and Alt-Mosel. You can also find him on Twitter and Instagram.