Art and Music and Wine


Last week in the Snooth forums, Philip linked to a BBC news article that reported on a recent University study that claims background music has an impact on how we taste (or appreciate) wine. The study was commissioned by Aurelio Montes who makes Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah, Chardonnay and other wines in Chile. Montes has an entire jukebox of song recommendations for the different wines he creates and is said to pump music into his barrel cellar as the wines are maturing.
Music, to me, is an integral part of winemaking, when you are racking a lot of wine that can consist of anywhere from four to 184 barrels it is a time consuming process that entails significant amount of time in set-up (sanitizing equipment) and break-down (sanitizing equipment) and the racking itself, either by pump or bulldog (argon or nitrogen gas racking) will take upwards of five minutes per barrel. This is patient work and a background melody can make the slow movement of wine that much more enjoyable. I'll kid myself to think that the music will have an impact on the wine's development, but making wine is like making art and art needs inspiration, and the best inspiration comes from other artistic media that I, or you, have an affinity to (or believe that is representative of the art/wines I am making). Typically I reserve our best wines for my favorite band, Interpol, which I have written about previously. But the dawn of the day had a different feel and my thumb circled the iPod in search of the right songs for a reserve racking.

A to Z. Bloc Party (edgy, Sauvignon Blanc); Cat Power (melodic, Chardonnay); The Last Town Chorus (haunting, Pinot Noir); The Libertines (adolescent, Beaujolais); The New Pornographers (imitative, Merlot); Morrissey (wistful, Syrah); Mozart (profound, Nebbiolo); Ryan Adams (desperate, Marsanne); Silversun Pickups (restless, Cabernet); Soul Coughing (cynical, Sangiovese); Tom Waits (dark, Zinfandel). I circled back thinking about this one time, the one moment I experienced while eating and drinking in an Italian enoteca in December 2005. I was in Milan to see the exhibit “Caravaggio and his European Influence” at the Palazzo Reale. The catalog opens with the savage description of his life:

“His was a violent life. An agonizing, seductive violence, written by the sword and redeemed by the brush. A sword with which he brought death, a brush with which he traced his path to eternity.”

Caravaggio's (regrettably) short life was epitomized in his dramatic Baroque paintings. He shunned traditional models for his friends from the messed-up milieu of Naples and Southern Italy. He brought realism into the hugely popular Mannerist style that ended the High Renaissance of Italian art. If I had to compile a soundtrack to his life, it was made clear to me the night after the exhibit in that dark and degenerate Italian gastro-pub that spewed watered down beer from three taps underneath a chalkboard with an assortment of made-to-order panini. The wine list was underwhelming, predominantly red with a local North Western Italian whites section that was two or three glasses long. I settled my order quickly. Grilled eggplant with mozzarella and basil, drizzled inside and out on the bread with an aged, viscous balsamic vinegar. Sided with a roasted tomato quartered. The food on the plate was black and red and white. Seared, dripping and savory. I ordered an Aglianico by the glass and the black liquid was overflowing with concentration and tannin. The inky wine was dark and brooding, as if poured directly from the master's self-portrait, Bacchus.

As I chewed my food and swilled my wine, looking at the tortured souls huddled in the back of the bar chain smoking and writing hopeless novellas. Memories full of Caravaggio paintings, mouth full of savage Southern Italian wine, I strained a glimpse into their desperate eyes while my ears were filled with the complex moodiness of Radiohead.

You are the sun and moon and stars, are you
And I could never run away from you

You try at working out chaotic things
And why should I believe myself, not you?

It's like the world is going to end so soon
And why should I believe myself?

You, me and everything caught in the fire
I can see me drowning, caught in the fire

The earlier version finishes with the following:
Hey the sun and moon and stars are yeah…

But I won't share myself with you
You to me.

Larkmead Vineyards in Napa Valley. Dan has an MBA from New York University and worked as an Ad Exec in New York for several years, before switching it up and trading his suit for a move out west.

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