The Sound of Music, and Wine

Norwich Bulletin - 1998


I have to be surrounded by music. Whether it’s Handel, Coltrane or Brian Eno, music is a constant source of inspiration when I work in my studio. I’ve never thought much about matching wine with music. Usually the only concern I’ve had in the past is matching the wine with the food, or vice versa. Sometimes it’s good to have background music when eating and drinking. Perhaps some soft and delicate jazz, or a harmonious and well-balanced Bach concerto might be called for, but  I’m usually happy enough with the music of a cork being eased out of a good bottle of claret and the sound of the last remnants of that wonderful sauce my wife has made being scraped up from the plate. Of course, the real music is the good conversation that good food, good wine and good company encourage.

A recent article in the science journal ‘Nature’ made me think about the dialogue between wine and music more closely. British psychologists studied the relationship between music and wine in a series of marketing experiments. Using wine stores as their laboratory, they played different styles of music to see what would happen to sales. What they found was that if French music was playing, French wine would sell better. If German marching band music played, German wines sold better. Just think of the implications of this for wine marketing. I can already hear the competing strains of cowboy music from the Texas lobby, (Texas is actually making some interesting wines) and fiery flamenco guitar and castanets from the Spanish lobby! I can see competing wine salesmen giving CD’s and tapes of selections from ‘Evita’ or ‘Waltzing Matilda with Digereedoo Music’ to promote Argentinean and Australian wines.

The Californian winery Zaca Mesa has commissioned a musical CD entitled Elements, featuring the music of a contemporary Native American group called Burning Sky. Apparently it's a New Age evocation of Zaca Mesa's natural setting in pastoral Santa Barbara County in California.

Austrian vintner Willi Opitz has an even better idea. Last Christmas Eve he produced a hit recording called "The Sound of Wine," featuring the "music" produced by 14 different wines in his winery’s fermentation vats. Apparently the record has been such a success in Europe that Opitz has now signed a recording contract with a major record company.

The best CD I have related to wine, is ‘Oz Clark's Wine Guide’ Actually it’s a CD Rom for my computer. I can highly recommend it. It costs about $30. It operates on both Windows and Macintosh systems and is chock full of information. Clark makes the world of wine a fun place to be in. His enthusiasm is infectious, as he runs you through video and audio clips about wine making, wine tasting, food and wine pairings. Clark has a refreshingly straightforward approach. This guide is very user friendly and has an extensive encyclopedic data base of wines and maps. Call Brookline Liquor Mart 1-800-350-7972 for further information, or look in a current computer software catalogue or magazine.

And for those of you that like Karaoke, that peculiarly Japanese invention, you might want to visit downtown Napa in California on the first Saturday of every month. The Jarvis winery organizes an operatic singalong, along with subtitles, and of course wine, if you can’t quite remember the words to your favorite operatic aria!