aligoté, baga, viognier -

music and wine

All the wines in blackpoolmatt's wine club come with a specific music pairing, matching the wine with an album to listen to while enjoying the bottle. There's also a playlist of songs from each album available on spotify that connects you to all the wines I've chosen that month.

There's no scientific method to my pairings. Instead, it's based around mood—just as my mood often reflects why I choose to open a certain bottle of wine. It could be because the weather's cold or hot, because I'm cooking a certain dish, because of who I'm with, or because I just feel like opening that bottle of wine right now.

And that's how I decide what music I want to listen to as well. Sometimes I'm in a quiet mood and want to listen to some folk; other times when I'm awake and energetic, I'll put on something more raucous.

Our senses are separate but integrated. Pairing music and wine means that we stimulate all five of the senses: sight, smell, taste, hearing, and touch. Putting a record on is as exciting to our eyes as opening and pouring a bottle of wine; listening to great music is as satisfying as tasting a great wine.

But drinking wine or listening to music aren't just sensory experiences; they also introduce us to different cultures, people, history, trends, opinions, and politics, acting as a sensory gateway to the world. So just as food and wine naturally go together, so too do music and wine.

this month: three wine and music pairings

Charles Audoin Aligoté / Richard Thompson "Acoustic Classics"

Aligoté is a grape variety that lies under Chardonnay's shadow in Burgundy. The main problem is that it's so acidic that it can be tart and difficult to drink. But a number of Burgundy producers are making some fantastic wine from older vines (in this case, 90 years) which are serious and concentrated and quite different expressions of Burgundy than Chardonnay. The small revival of quality Aligoté is based on tradition as well as contemporary trends. Charles Audoin is a fifth-generation winery based in Marsannay, Charles's son Cyril now in charge.

Meanwhile, Richard Thompson is one of the greatest English folk guitarists and singers, who was part of the folk revival in the 1960s that created something new based on old traditions, rather like Aligoté in Burgundy. I chose his Acoustic Classics as the music pairing, a compilation which showcases some of his best songs and which matches the quiet intensity of this Aligoté. Plus, Thompson is a Brit who somewhat unexpectedly now lives in California—just like me!

Domaine Sérol Viognier / Scott Walker "Scott 2"

Viognier is a tricky grape variety to work with, as alcohol can be high and acidity low. But on the right sites, most notably in the northern Rhône, it produces powerful, aromatic, lush wines. This example from one of my favorite under-the-radar producers, Domaine Sérol, is unusual, as it's from a small Loire region called Côte Roannaise just west of Beaujolais. With climate change, this could be an ideal region for Viognier.

Scott Walker was a 1960s heart-throb, singer in the Walker Brothers (they weren't brothers and his surname was Engel not Walker). He then went rogue, producing left-field albums heavily influenced by Belgian chanteur Jacques Brel with a rich, almost music-hall feel: perfect for drinking with an opulent Viognier that you didn't even know was being made. His first four albums are all called Scott; I’ve paired the wine with Scott 2, perhaps the most ample and lavish of the four albums.

Niepoort "Lagar de Baixo" Baga / D.R. Hooker "The Truth"

Dirk Niepoort may be the fifth generation winemaker in his family, but he's one of the most radical and experimental in Portugal. He makes superb port, as well as red, white, rosé, and sparkling wines. This wine comes from the Baga grape variety, native to the coastal Bairrada region and which is high in tannin and acidity but low to medium in alcohol. There are few varieties to compare it to—I’ve tasted thirty-year-old wines with less than 12% alcohol (this one is 12.5%) yet which remain highly tannic and ageable.

D.R. Hooker is a new discovery for me. A former stoner turned Christian, he recorded this maverick album in the early 1970s, releasing just 99 copies. This is a euphoric, spiritual album and also slightly bonkers, which immediately made me think of Baga, a grape variety deliberately ostracized in the 1700s to favor the wines of the Douro until producers began to work with it again in the 1980s. And, like Baga, Hooker's album The Truth was completely overlooked until its rediscovery in the 2000s.

All of our senses are interlinked and add to our pleasure. As ever, with blackpoolmatt's wine club, I hope you're always discovering something new not just in the wines but in how you experience them and the stories behind them—and that you're always learning as you taste through the wines.