Wine Music : Grenache

After a lengthy Twitter and email discussion with Zelda of Illustrated Wine, I decided to change the angle of my Wine Music posts a little bit. She argued that it would be more interesting to illustrate wines with more obscure or local music. Given the fact that I have an endless supply of French music to share, and that my previous offering of Burgundian songs was well received, I thought it would be worth a try.

It also helped that I had the perfect music/wine combo in mind for that new approach. Grenache is a grape from Spain which is most famous for the wines produced in France in the Southern Rhone Valley. It’s a lighter, fun, fruity grape that works well in blends and is fairly easy drinking by itself.

Given those characteristics, I think I would use a song by French band Les Negresses Vertes called Sous le Soleil de Bodega. Like Grenache, it’s light and fun, and also, it displays some Spanish sounds which calls back to the Spanish heritage of the grape. Finally, the song was made to illustrate wine as it contains a few invocations to Dionysos (Dionysus), the Greek god of wine, wine making and general drunkenness: “Toi Dionysos, bénis ma chair, bénis mes os” or, you Dionysus, bless my flesh, bless my bones.

Last reason I wanted to post this song, summer is finally coming to Massachusetts and not a moment too soon. This song always makes me think of summer, of heat, sun and lazy afternoons spent drinking wine on the terrace with my dad, this song is actually a favorite of his. Now I get that I’m the only one with an emotional connection to the song, but do you agree with the pairing?


Wine Music : Cabernet and Nebbiolo

Wine Music is a series of posts where I try to match wines with famous songs.  I feel like wine and music go well together as they are two matters that can be studied both technically and emotionally. Simply put, I want to match some wines with songs that they make me think of.

Previous entries include:

Chablis and Meursault

Gewurztraminer and Beaujolais


I love writing those Wine Music posts but they can be hard sometimes. It’s not necessarily the writing in itself, it’s the research and the whole finding a song thing that can take time. I used to go at it in a carefree way, waiting for a match idea to strike me as I perused songs.  I realized that I needed to change methods and use the approach I use to blind taste a wine, a structured, sequenced approach.

Since we are taking about structure, let’s match Cabernet Sauvignon with a song. Structure is one of the defining characteristics of the wine, what are the others? Acidity, tannins, a bit of an unforgiving side, potential for ageing, full bodied, dark, those are a few of the Cabernet things. From that, I can tell that I will need an older song that stood the test of time, it should not be an easygoing happy song about rainbows, there should be some darkness in it and finally it will need some “body”, some staying power, I can’t go with a breezy, light summer tune.

At first I considered some Bach pieces as, like Cabernet, it emphasizes structure but I thought it was a cop out and it lacked the darkness I wanted. Bach to the drawing board I guess (one day I’ll be able to stay away from puns). Cabernet Sauvignon’s music match is: Paint it Black, The Rolling Stones, 1966

The darkness is right already in the title, it’s definitely a classic song, there is structure and staying power and for added bonus, the use of the sitar gives oriental notes to the song that mirrors cedar aromas some Bordeaux can have. Done.

Now, onward to Nebbiolo. What am I looking for here? There is a reason I lumped Nebbiolo in the same note as Cabernet Sauvignon. Many characteristics are the same: potential for ageing, structure. Acidity, tannins,… Where Nebbiolo differs, in my opinion is that it is lighter (without being light), more elegant and can be more surprising than Cabernet.

I considered staying with the Rolling Stones with this one; maybe Sympathy for the Devil would have had that funky element I’m looking for. In the end I decided to go with another great song : Wish you were here, Pink Floyd, 1975

I feel it’s a good match, definitely a song with structure and layers, serious without being dark, elegant to a fault and with moments of grace to mirror the joy of drinking an old Nebbiolo.

Thoughts? Did I miss the mark on these ? Any alternative pairings ?

Wine Music : Vouvray

I think it is overdue for a new Wine Music post, and since I did a couple of recent posts on Chenin Blanc in general and Vouvray, in particular, I think I might as well complete my work and provide an appropriate musical match.

Let’s see, a song for Chenin Blanc has to be refreshing, to reflect the trademark acidity. It also needs to be at least a little sweet, to show that Chenin Blanc can be made in an off-dry style. I started my research with those guidelines in mind, and then, I found that there is an actual French band called Chenin Blanc,… The trouble is, well, it’s kind of a white supremacist, skinhead, hardcore punk band. You know people with shaven heads, bombers and baseball bats who like beer, fighting and not much else. I’m being quite literal here, their main song is called “Fight and Get drunk”. I guess they chose the band name because of the “Blanc” rather than the “Chenin” part.

I think pretty much everything about this band disqualifies them from being a good match. Now, I actually like punk music, I’m a big fan of the Clash, but I don’t think any wine can be expressed through a racist song. I don’t think I’ve seen a wine with a political agenda yet. So, back to searching for a Vouvray song then!

So, refreshing, sweet, spring-like… I think I have it! The song that goes with Vouvray is… Bubble Toes by Jack Johnson.

The sweetness is there, I’m a sucker for artists that express feelings through simple words. Metaphors are nice and all, but poetry is more touching when it feels real. The song is also refreshing, its part delivery of the lines, part melody and part pure gleeful singing of the chorus. Also, the name is Bubble Toes and Vouvray can be made as a bubbly, and yes, I’m aware I might be grasping at straws here.

Now, you may not agree with my choice, but I can tell you with certainty that it is still a better choice than a song, than any song, from the Chenin Blanc band…

Wine Music : Gewurztraminer and Beaujolais

It’s time for a second wine / song pairing. Today I’ll match two wines that I had recently : Gewurztraminer Vendanges Tardives from Alsace and wines from the Beaujolais appellations like Fleury or Regnié.

Gewurztraminer Vendanges Tardives : Kokomo, The Beach Boys, 1988

Any pairing with Gewurz had to include some kind of tropical them. This song qualifies. Granted it’s a little cheesy and considered a minor hit from a great band, but there are a few other points that make it a good match. The tropical, Caribbean sounds, like a steel drum, are here but they alternate with softer, mellower parts. It reminded me of the more delicate lychee giving the pineapple a run for his money. I also like the line “we’ll get there fast and then we’ll take it slow.” It made me think of the grapes waiting on the vine until they are ready and their sugar level is high. They definitely took it slow here. Oh, also the video is super eighties; it’s a good added bonus!

Beaujolais, All I Wanna do, Sheryl Crow, 1993

This one hit me like a ton of bricks. I was racking my brains for another match and then this song came on. An ode to taking it easy, a song relating a bar side conversation on a lazy Tuesday afternoon, that’s a Beaujolais song if I ever heard one. There isn’t a more effortless wine in the world, it’s unpretentious, all it wants to do is have some fun, and who are we to refuse it its fun? Seriously, I hear the first notes and Sheryl setting the tone and background of the song with a few spoken lines and I crave a bar stool and a glass of Morgon. I know they drink beer in the song’s story but I prefer to focus on what it’s really about: taking a step back let the world pass you by for an hour or two and look at it with amused eyes. Also, like Beaujolais, this song is catchy.

So what do you think? What song would you have matched with those wines instead?

Dueling Burgundies, like in Deliverance but not quite

Have you seen Deliverance? If you did then you’d probably remember it. It’s one of those movies that leave a mark, a painful, sometimes funny, sometimes beautiful mark. It also makes you scared of ever going to the Southern United States, which is of course just your basic self-preservation instinct kicking-in. I, for one, only cross the Mason-Dixon Line when I really have to.

Anyway, there are two scenes from this movie that stuck with me, the “Squeal piggy, squeal” scene and the banjo scene. The first one is traumatizing (but makes a really argument for not marrying your sister), the second one is perfect. It’s just the right amount of tragic foreshadowing that at the same time tries to bring some levity to the whole story. Here is a link to the scene.

At a family dinner earlier in the week, two bottles of Burgundy were opened, both red, both from a “lesser” level of AOC, both supposedly past their primes in terms of age. My mind immediately jumped to the dueling banjos scene as we drank the two bottles.


One was a Hautes-Côtes-de-Beaune 2008 from Naudin-Ferrand and the other was a Ladoix 2006 from Capitain-Gagnerot, both from the Cote de Beaune, both made from Pinot Noir only, one from a sub-regional level AOC, the other from a Village AOC. And like with the banjos in the video, they played the same partition with slightly different tones.

Hautes cotes de beaune

Both wines were light in body with medium high acidity and medium length finish. Where they differed though was in the proportion of fruity and gamey notes. The Hautes-Cotes showed the classic red fruit aromas of Burgundy with some gamey, sous-bois undertones.  On the other side, the Ladoix was showcasing the gamey side with raspberries and red fruits taking a backseat but bringing some freshness to the finish. It was interesting going from one to the other during the dinner.

It was also a good reminder that even supposedly lesser level wines can have something to show, even if it’s unexpected. To be honest, I was worried when opening the bottles as I thought that 2008 and 2006 for a sub-region and village AOC respectively and they were both fine. This goes to show two things:

1) You can never tell before opening the bottle (although you can have reasonable doubts)

2) I’m like Jon Snow, I know nothing.

This being said, it’s been a long week at work, I’m off to the wine bar.

Wine Music : Chablis and Meursault

 I want to finish 2013 by beginning a new series of posts about wine pairings. This time I don’t want to pair wine with food but rather with music. I feel like wine and music go well together as they are two matters that can be studied both technically and emotionally. Simply put, I want to match some wines with songs that they make me think of. I’ll do two or three wines per post and ideally a post once a week or every two weeks. I’m sure this has been done before that’s why I haven’t researched anything so that my pairings are truly my own. Let’s start with Chablis and Meursault

Chablis: Love will tear us apart, Joy Division, 1980

I have to say it was the first wine/song pairing that came to mind when I started thinking about this project. This song always makes me shiver and despair. Everything sounds bleak, stripped down to parts, inescapable and cold, so cold. The cool, strict, crisp and acidic character of Chablis immediately comes to mind. Chablis is not here to coddle you, he’ll tell it like it is, no lies, no sugarcoating, and no frills. The stony, resigned tone of Ian Curtis’ voice even matches the flinty character of Chablis.

Meursault: Let’s stay together, Al Green, 1972

When tasting, it’s easier to distinguish the character of one wine by using another wine to highlight some features by contrast. After cold, unforgiving Chablis I moved on to welcoming, round, full Meursault. The buttery character of Meursault wraps itself around you, telling you that everything will be fine; you’re in good hands, comforted, warm. A love song with a full, warm comforting song like this Al Green classic sounds like a good match to me.

What do you think ? Can you find a better match for those wines ? Any wines I should do next ?

And with that, I think it’s time to wish you good luck in your New Year’s Eve preparations, may your cooking go well and may the wine pairings be ever in your favor ! See you next year !