We often talk about wine in terms of flavors—sweet, fruity, or dry. Does it have notes of stone fruit, or tropical fruit, or a freshly opened can of tennis balls? Does it smell like strawberry skin or green bell peppers? But, then there are its more enigmatic qualities—how does the wine make us feel? There’s a reason why rosé has garnered its own hashtag (#roséallday) and a cottage industry has risen around the varietal (complete with those coveted Sugarfina gummybears). There’s a laidback, easygoing feeling you get when drinking it, a feeling worlds away from the sensuality of Pinot Noir or the power of a Cabernet Sauvignon.
We pair these sensations with food—there’s a certain child-like giddiness one gets when drinking champagne with a bucket of fried chicken, the former’s bubbles playing with the latter’s crisp, crackling skin. But, can we pair wine with other areas of consumption? Can we match the feelings certain wines give us with something like music, for instance? Here, we offer five wines to savor with five albums.
“The American Dream” by LCD Soundsystem
When considering LCD Soundsystem’s latest album, a cabernet franc from New York is a fantastic metaphorical choice. Its vines bud late in the season—frontman James Murphy was 35 when LCD Soundsystem released their first album, considered older by many in the music industry (and a recurring theme of the band’s music is one’s relationship with age). The grapes of cab franc ripen early—LCD Soundsystem played what was supposedly their final show on April 2, 2011 before reuniting for this album. Beyond the metaphorical, cab franc has a light acidity, medium body, and what Karen MacNeil’s “The Wine Bible” calls “distinct…nuanced flavors” that are often peppery—it will stand up to Murphy’s cynical lyrics without overpowering their wistfulness.
“Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1” by The Traveling Wilburys
Recorded by a supergroup composed of George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty, Roy Orbison, and Bob Dylan, “Traveling Willburys Vol. 1” is a relaxed album that could easily be enjoyed while sipping a rosé from Provence with friends. To record the album, the five musicians, who released the album under cheeky pseudonyms, would gather in Dylan’s Malibu home to jam and hang out—an atmosphere that produced songs that were fresh and romantic. Such a setting is ideal for Provençal rosé—a wine that is not astute and serious, but is a crowd-pleaser and gets along with most food that it meets. Susie Scott, sommelier for The Carillon in Austin, Texas, says of their cheery song “End of the Line,” “After all, what’s better than seeing the world through rose-colored glasses and realizing, ‘that it’s alright/living the life that you please/riding around in the breeze/even if the sun don’t shine’?”
“The Man Machine” by Kraftwerk
Kraftwerk are a German electronic band, widely considered as pioneers of the genre, and this 1978 album features incredibly lush use of synthesizers, vocoders, and electronic drums. This album would pair well with another German staple—Riesling. The use of echoed and looped high-pitched synths in “Man Machine” tickles the ears—as does the high acidity of wines that are a result of the cool, hilly slopes of Germany. I would recommend one that is just a touch off-dry for a full-mouth feel that mirrors the thick, tone-drenched richness of the album.
As a side note—The Germans drink an average of ten gallons of wines per person per year. Americans drink three.
“Graceland” by Paul Simon
Paul Simon’s seventh solo studio album, for which he controversially travelled to Johannesburg to record with African musicians during the UN’s cultural boycott of South Africa, marked a comeback for the artist. It makes sense, then, to listen to this album with South African wine in hand—and specifically, Sauvignon Blanc. In “Graceland,” Simon calls upon an extensive range of musical influences—zydeco, isicathamiya, and mbaqanga—which makes for an eclectic, engaging album. In the same way, a single glass of South African Sauvignon Blanc can carry a wide array of flavor profiles—smoky, grassy, or minerally. These wines are snappy and have vibrant personality, mirroring Simon’s smart, quick lyrics, like these from “You Can Call Me Al:” “He looks around, around/He sees angels in the architecture, spinning in infinity/He says ‘amen’ and ‘hallelujah.’”
“Kind of Blue” by Miles Davis
“Kind of Blue” is considered by many to be the best jazz album of all time, and at the time, an essential interruption to everything going on. With this album, trumpeter Miles Davis abandoned the standard chord progressions on which jazz and modern music had been based and turned towards modal scales. I would offer a Burgundian Pinot Noir to accompany the understatement that this modal-based music procures. There is subtlety and sensuality to both wine and album; both are atmospheric. And while “Kind of Blue” has gone on to influence scores of jazz, rock, and classical musicians, pinot noir is considered a “founder variety”—the ancestor of other well-known grapes. With an opening that alternates soft piano and bass before Davis’ wistful trumpet cuts through, “Flamenco Sketches” seems especially ripe for pinot-drinking—it seethes in its seductiveness and earthiness in a way that is reflected in a good pinot noir’s sous bois (forest floor) and animali (that attractive sweaty smell) notes.