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.
Paul Moran is a personal friend and former colleague of mine. When working together I was always happy to let Paul choose the music we listened to as our tastes have a significant overlap; furthermore, as Paul did not have the same eight years of sleep deprivation (aka “kids”) he was always able to introduce me to new things.
The track I chose for Paul is one of my favourite dance music tracks (Rez) from a band (Underworld) who both performed live and released albums (not the norm on the dance music scene). Funnily enough Rez was not originally included on an Underworld album, but was on 1994’s Junior Boy’s Own Collection. One of the criticisms levelled at dance music by people who don’t like it has been that it lacks the emotion of music made by “real” instruments; Rez obliterates this judgement as it’s one of the most emotive pieces of music I’ve ever heard – judge for yourself below!
The wine I chose is also something of a rule breaker. This time it’s my own rule of thumb: if a wine region or grape is known for making something different, e.g. sparkling or fortified wine, or even brandy, then the chances are that the regular wines from the region or grape are pretty ordinary. Suertes del Marqués’s white wines are predominantly made from Listán Blanco which is treasured in Jerez for its neutrality under the synonym Palomino. However, in Tenerife’s Valle de La Orotava it produces wine such as Trenzado, an amazingly complex wine which, while it might not be to everyone’s taste, can be everything to those who like it.
A moment of sensory reflection, the nostalgia of a forgotten tune or half remembered flavour. Whether it’s wine or music, both pursuits seem like they flex the same mental muscles.
The similarities between music and wine have struck me before: having studied music at university and now, a decade later, working in wine, I’ve often considered the parallels. But when actually requested to pair a wine with a piece of music (and vice versa), then explain my rationale, I initially found it a little hard to articulate.
Underworld – Rez
The track Frankie has asked me to pair is the devastatingly simple rave classic Rez by Underworld. Starting with an arpeggiated chord progression, it builds and builds to a series of monstrous climaxes but never loses the iron focus at its core. My first instinct, when seeking a wine to accompany it, was that acid was required — lots of it. Rez needs a wine that’s layered and complex but also fun and thrilling in equal measure, something to make the hair on your arms stand on end and send a shiver down your spine.
My mind immediately went to Jura Savagnin and, in particular, Premice from Les Dolomies. Much like those opening chords in Rez, as the wine hits your palate the mouth-watering acidity shocks your taste buds to attention. That’s followed by layer after layer of citrus peel, crushed rocks, nutty oxidation and struck match reduction. Each is perfectly in balance; as soon as you notice one aroma or taste, it is beautifully eclipsed by something else — only to shift back into focus later on.
Both the track and wine exhibit a certain alchemy, a masterclass in nerve and poise that adds up to more than the sum of its parts. I can’t think of a better wine to drink while imagining reaching for those lasers.
Suertes del Marqués Trenzado
The wine I was asked to match to a piece of music is the excellent Trenzado from Suertes del Marqués in Tenerife. It’s a fascinatingly complex wine that I think takes people aback at first; those that it converts tend to become devoted fans. There is a huge amount going on in the glass here and as with the wine above, it’s distinctive in terms of how many layers of complexity there are. This is where the similarities end however; this wine opens up to reveals itself very differently.
The first thing that strikes me on the nose is an intense smokiness, followed by citrus. The palate is then surprisingly broad and I’m immediately struck by the texture rather than any single flavour. There is green apple and butter, a bit like a weird, edgy cousin of white Burgundy. I take my first sip straight from the fridge but over the next hour it opens up to reveal stone fruits, salty seaweed, honey, herbs and a persistent smoky finish.
It took over an hour for this wine to open fully so it felt only appropriate to pick a piece of music that takes time to show its true form. Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians is a rich tapestry of instruments and voices, layered into a constantly shifting and undulating soundscape. When I saw this piece performed live by Reich a few years ago, I was completely awestruck by the experience.
Wine and music both represent a journey through the senses. A moving piece or magical bottle takes you to another place psychologically. An otherworldly plain, where the normal world momentarily melts away.
Paul Moran is Business Development Manager for Findlater & Co in North Dublin.
Having originally studied music, Paul spent ten years working in Project Management before jumping into wine full time last year. Despite feeling out of his depth much of the time he’s not come to regret the decision (yet).
You can follow him on instagram under the moniker @selected_ambient_yeasts [itself a reference to both wine and music].