A guide to pairing Wine & Music with Nelson Pari (Mmus)
One of our brilliant sommeliers, Nelson veered off the beaten track and onto a musical one as he hosted a fantastic Masterclass at the Club pairing wine and music.
Without wanting to generalise too much, I find myself putting food and wine into three different categories when pairing the two:
1) Regional: where the wine and the food originate. Is it the same place? For example, a cut of Fiorentina meat with a Chianti Classico, or a Beef Bourguignon with a red Burgundy – or, perhaps the two could be from entirely different corners of the world.
2) Scientific: where every element of a particular dish is analysed and subsequently the wine is researched to pair with the dish – you may have seen frequent examples of this on our Club News section of the website.
3) Instinct: When a dish sends your mind to a particular wine straight away, or vice versa.
Music works in the same way as food, and during the masterclass I hosted on ‘The History of Pairing Wine and Music’, I used three examples of famous pairings by professors and wine writers similar to the above categories.
2018 Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough, New Zealand) paired with Lorde’s Buzzcut Season (pairing by Paolo Scarpellini, Sound Sommelier).
Cloudy Bay is the most famous New Zealand winery and the trademark for Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. New Zealand born Lorde won 2 Grammy Awards with the electronic and minimalist music style.
This pairing has been made by Paolo Scarpelli, the “Godfather” of wine and music pairing. His list of clients as a sound designer/sommelier is huge, and includes the 2 times Best Restaurant in the World “Osteria Francescana” (3 star Michelin) by Massimo Bottura. The reasoning behind the pairing is seeing the human being as an expression of terroir. This is what he says about the pairing:
“The jumping rhythm of the keys mirror the light colour of the wine. The shy start of the voice stimulates the aromatics of the wine, while the drums adds light notes of pepper. The choir during the chorus helps in sustaining the acidity of the Sauvignon.”
2017 Francois & Jean-Marie Cherrier Sancerre Les Renardieres (Loire, France) paired with Debussy’s Jardin Sous La Pluie and Rachmaninoff’s Vocalise (pairing by Dr. Charles Spence and Dr. Qian Wang).
This Sancerre is a terroir-expressive wine, where the aromatics are well balanced with strong notes of minerality.
Debussy is the first impressionistic composer (he uses music as an effect rather than creating a specific melody). In Jardin Sous La Pluie, through his piano solo he sets the scene of a violent rainstorm that hits a garden in Norway, and Rachmaninoff is a famous piano virtuoso and composer of the late romantic period.
This pairing was created by Dr. Charles Spence, professor of experimental psychology and head of the Crossmodal Research Lab. He is now one of the top authorities for food and wine pairing and his work is quoted by many winemakers including Krug, who introduced a music pairing for every cuvée listed.
The Crossomodal Reference between Music and Wine is explained by Dr Spence as “associations that we all share between features, attributes, and sensory dimensions in one sensory modality, and the seemingly unrelated features, attributes, and sensory dimensions of experience in another modality such as between roundness and sweetness or brightness and pitch.”
This whole experiment is based on the fact that there is a connection between the length/finish of the wine and the rhythm of the melody that Debussy is playing with a fast tempo, and Rachmaninoff on a slow tempo. For Dr. Spence, the slow tempo would increase the general length whilst the fast one would decrease it.
2017 Feudi di San Gregorio Fiano di Avellino (Campania, Italy) paired with Dave Brubeck’s Take Five (pairing by Tim Atkin MW).
Fiano di Avellino has now become a popular choice of wine during summertime. The expression is fruity with a generous amount of fresh orange – this wine is their trademark expression.
Dave Brubeck has been defined as the father of “white jazz” introducing many influences from classical music. Here, we have the most famous tunes in 5 (most music is counted in 4) but the subtle playing of the band and in particular the phrasing of Mr Paul Desmond on sax makes it really enjoyable and easy to listen to.
This pairing was created by Tim Atkin MW. Back in the day, Tim used to have sessions with music and wine pairings, using wines from local supermarkets like Waitrose and M&S. I used to find them incredibly useful. After my composition lessons at Trinity Laban, I would go straight to the nearest M&S and buy his recommended wine, before listening to the suggested music at home. It was such a great way to get into wine.
The instinct that drives this pairing is based on the lightness that the wine has, compared to the flawless playing of the band. The perfect blend.
Throughout the masterclass, we had frequent divides on opinions. Some thought that one pairing worked far better than another, however we all agreed in every example shown here that the music definitively changed the wine and vice versa. Music is also a very personal subject – most of us have a ‘life soundtrack’ of our own, that influences what we continue to listen to. The wine becomes a strong way to discover something new that you never thought you might like.
If you have a favourite piece of music, please come and find me floating around 67 Pall Mall; it would be my pleasure to find a suitable wine, whatever genre it falls into…