February is here..finally. It’s been a long dry January – and I really mean dry.
A good friend of mine, who has often been my partner in wine, makes a point of abstaining for the month, giving her liver a chance to recover after the holiday.
How hard could climbing Mt. Abstinence be?
Especially after my husband, my brother and two great friends said goodbye to 2014 with some outstanding dinner companions named Barolo, Brunello, Amarone, Chateauneuf-du-Pape and more…14 to be exact, including a special bottle I was saving from Mission Hill that mistakenly became Bottle #12.
Yes, my liver could use a vacation, too.
Suddenly I seemed to become a magnet for every announcement for the latest wines to hit the store. Smart buys! Spectacular Spanish wines. Sigh!
But it was clear sailing… until Friday.
While every day is worthy a good glass of wine, when it comes to Fridays, it should almost be compulsory. On that first Friday of Abstinence – 5 PM came with no stop at the liquor store on the way home, no perusing the shelves looking for that special bottle or arriving home with a bottle decanting ready to pour while my husband and I dissect the week and celebrate the start of the weekend.
OK, I decided just one bottle wouldn’t be the end of the world – that’s still half as much as we would normally drink on a Friday. And one more on Saturday. But I survived Sunday. I believe in celebrating small victories.
It pretty much went the same for the whole month. What I did learn, when you are only drinking two bottles a week – you make sure they are really great ones like this Brunello.
You also sip slowly and savour because in two and a half glasses, the bottle’s empty.
An Irish friend of mine said he and his friends would also take “the pledge” (to avoid alcohol) once a year. But they had the right idea. They picked February, the shortest month.
The connection between wine and music is a marriage made in heaven, not just because it is the combination of two of my favourites things, or even because I can’t imagine my life without either, but there is actually a science behind the power of this pairing.
Throw a little ACDC on the sound system and you might describe the red you are sipping as as punchy or bold, while those Pat Metheny tunes will have you calling a white wine light and crisp. A study out of Herriot – Watt University in Edinburgh suggests the music you are listening to affects the way it tastes and certain kinds of music will make the wine taste better.
Research out of the University of Leicester in the UK found that music can also affect the kind of wine you buy. So listening to Tony Bennett Leaving his Heart in San Francisco while shopping could lead you to a lovely Napa Valley red – while sultry French songstress Edith Piaff could send you directly into the Bordeaux aisle.
There are web sites dedicated to music and wine pairings. WIneandMusic.com – tells us Katy Perry’s Teenage Dreams goes nicely with 7 Deadly Zins Zinfandel 2007, or Maroon 5’s Hands All Over is perfectly paired with d’Arenberg’s Stump Jump. The web site’s philosophy is “Wine is like music, you may not know what is good, but you know what you like.”
Another web site dedicated to harmonic pairings, WineFoodMood.com – combines beat of the music and wine style – so fast-paced and energetic tunes like Abba is best consumed with something easy drinking – like a Beaujolais. Most of the research focuses on how our wine decisions and appreciation are influenced by music.
You don’t have to look far to see more evidence of the marriage of music and wine. For example, AC/DC Back in Black Shiraz, the Rolling Stones Forty Licks Merlot, or Sting’s Tuscan creation Sister Moon – clearly wine appreciation extends to all musical genres.
A Calfornia winery out of Mendocino County called Wines that Rock produces Forty Licks Merlot and that’s just the beginning. Wines That Rock calls itself the official wine of rock and roll. Its mission: to “create great tasting wines inspired by music.” http://www.winesthatrock.com/The-Wine. Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon Cabernet Sauvignon, Police’s Synchronicity Red Blend, Woodstock Chardonnay – the labels are amazing and the reviews pretty great, too.
According to the website, winemaker Mark Beaman has music blasting through the cellar while working his magic. He even has playlists for harvesting (including U2, Smashing Pumpkins, Led Zepplin and Dire Straits) and for blending (Fleetwood Mac, Police, Pink Floyd and The Red Hot Chili Peppers).
A small winery in Tuscany believes the love affair goes both ways.. It uses the power of music to coax the best out of its grapes.
Il Paradiso di Frassina plays Mozart to its vines 24 hours a day. Owner Giancarlo Cignozzi believed playing music to the vines would enhance their flavour – and make Giancarlo happy at the same time. A civil lawyer from Milan, he bought the vineyard in 1999 and brought his love of music with him.
Whether classical music makes the vines go stronger, or if it is merely a marketing tool, it is an effective one. Il Paradiso has become known as the Mozart Vineyard. Every major wine publication along with the international media has come to call and to sample.
“We became known as the people who play music to the grapes. They thought we were nuts,” says Ulisse Cignozzi, Giancarlo’s son who gave us the tour.
The speaker people at BOSE believed enough to donate 100 speakers to the cause. The University of Florence took notice and is currently involved in a long term study to see if there is science to support the theory. Ulisse says it’s too early to tell, but there are some initial findings that suggest the grapes respond to sound.
“We noted the sugar content is higher in grapes that are closer to the speakers,” he says.
One of the wines under the influence that we sampled, a Brunello di Montalcino 2007 was full-bodied and delicious. While I haven’t found it in the LCBO, Zoltan Szabo – sommelier at Toronto’s Trump International Hotel and Tower stocks it at the hotel.
Another wine, though not grown in the shadow of the speakers, accompanies the musical theme. 12 Uve (12 grapes) features 12 different varietals – 6 Italian, 6 Bordeaux – one for each note on the musical scale.
There’s no shortage of interest in the pairing of music and wine closer to home. Mount Royal University in Calgary offers a course in music and wine pairings. www.Mtroyal.ca
Jackson-Triggs holds a spectacular concert series each summer, a perfect example of the harmonious blend of good music and good wine – www.jacksontriggswinery.com
The Outside Lands Festival near San Francisco even hired a wine curator to pair wines with the music performances on the menu.
“We’re creating a new platform where all these pleasure points in our life – eating, drinking and music,” curator Peter Eastlake told Wine Spectator earlier this year.
True, because there is nothing more pleasureable than a tasting a great glass of wine – at any price, while listening to the perfect piece of music.
Slainte (cheers in Gaellic – pronounced Slawn-tcha)