Pairing music with wine can truly entertain all of the senses. To taste, smell, feel, see, and hear a pairing is mind blowing. For the on-site (rather than online) tasting part of my business, I paired wine and live music with symphony orchestra clients for a fundraising event. The musicians selected a piece, and I chose a wine that would enhance the tasters all-senses experience of both the wine and music. For example I paired a piece by Mozart with an Austrian Gruner Veltliner. Austrian Gruner compliments Mozart's music wonderfully because both are subtle, clean, complex, elegant, and classic.
But I find that wine is only paired with symphony music and occasionally jazz. Rarely do you find someone who will write an article about a Napa Cab and Rage Against the Machine pairing. While I didn't go as far as hard rock, with this blog I decided to focus on a genre dear to my heart...Classic Rock! It is with great pleasure I share with you the top ten wine and classic rock pairings.
1. Simon Sig Chenin Blanc from South Africa with Led Zeppelin's Stairway to Heaven
Some argue that Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin is the greatest classic rock song of all time. While I would not call the Simonsig Chenin Blanc the best white wine of all time, it does make a stellar pairing. Both the wine and song start out soft and round. The song begins with string plucking, while the wine plucks and entertains the senses with aromas of pear and green apple flesh. The aromas are fresh, ripe, and round. The middle of the song gives way to a monster guitar solo, just as the beat of the wine picks up once it's on the palate. Racy and lush, leading into a finish that is loaded with energy, much like the song. The hint of sweetness softens the wine just as the song is softened by swaying back and forth between soft and hard rock.
2. Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand with Aerosmith's Dream On
Dream On begins with a medium tempo that is wonderfully complimented by the medium weight of this wine on the tongue. The rocky edge to the song is enhanced by the razor sharp acidity this wine showcases. The wine is steady and clean, just like the song. When the tune finishes, your heart is overtaken with the feeling that you've just run a marathon. The wine follows as the last sip leaves you sitting and thinking, "Whoa!". But I would say above all, the most important characteristic about this pairing is that both the song and the wine scream. Steven Tyler loves a good scream, and the best way to describe New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc's acidity is as screaming! DREAM ON with this pairing!
3. Mumm Napa Brut Rose from California with the Eagle's Hotel California
Pink Champagne on ice...enough said. While this wine is from California and should therefore be called sparkling wine, Mumm is a very successful wine producer in Champagne, France as well. And both in Champagne and California, their wines are made using the traditional method, also called the methode champenoise. Both the wine and the song can be described as lively and balanced. The wine's bubbles create little bursts of tingling in the mouth, much like the continuous crashing symbols from the song. The wine is complex, and changes direction much like the song's tempo as it rises and falls. And again, the obvious: "Pink Champagne on ice."
4. Rockbare Shiraz from Australia with Lynyrd Skynyrd's Sweet Home Alabama
To me, nothing says rock and roll quite like Australian Shiraz by Rockbare. Heck, flip over the bottle and you'll see a picture of the winemakers; the photo looks like a CD cover. This is because the winemakers are also in a band, and that rock star mentality is showcased in this bottle. Sweet Home Alabama is forward and spicy, much like the fruit-forward style of the wine with its spicy cracked pepper flavors and aromas. Both are big and loud, yet easy to enjoy. Plus, the wine and the song have the whole southern thing going on...Rockbare is just a little further south.
5. Talley Vineyards Chardonnay from California with Boston's More Than A Feeling
Think big and powerful with a mellowing factor. Brian Talley's Chardonnay falls under the category of "Burgundian in style," which means it showcases big, buttery aromas, with plenty of oak on the palate. This wine IS quintessential Californian Chardonnay. And Boston IS quintessential Classic Rock. They are both lively and vivid. The Talley Chardonnay has undergone malolactic fermentation, resulting in a soft, yet balanced palate. More Than A Feeling rocks, but somehow has an easy listening component, making it a great jukebox tune on a Saturday night. Big, bold, and the definition of their industries is the moral of the story here.
6. Gaja Barbaresco from Italy with Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody
When people think Barbaresco, they often think Gaja. His wines break down barriers and define a new style of Italian wine. Queen, along with their song Bohemian Rhapsody, are in the same boat. Queen is equally innovative in the Classic Rock category. Bohemian Rhapsody broke down borders to define a new style of Classic Rock. The wine and the tune are both powerful, yet elegant. This wine has depth and layers, while maintaining harmony and balance. The song, layered with harmony to the point that it's more like a symphony piece than a rock song, mirrors the wine. In addition, Barbaresco is considered the feminine red of the Piedmont region of Italy, queen to king Barolo. As for Queen...well...they have Freddie Mercury.
7. Caymus Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon from California with the Rolling Stone's (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction
The Stones, while Euro, helped define Rock and Roll in the United States. Their upbeat music and rocky edge make them a great partner for a young Californian iconic Cabernet like Caymus. Youthful Cabs are tannic and rustic, but when done well show great depth and complexity. The harder sound of (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction is a perfect compliment to the rugged tannins in this youthful cab. Plus, the the wine and the band are known and respected by all, whether you care for them or not. When you think Stones, think Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon.
8. Newton 'Unfiltered' Merlot from California with Steve Miller Band's Keep On Rock'n Me
Baby, baby, baby, keep on Rock'n Merlot! Did you know it's almost hip to like Merlot again? The grape is making a big come back, and it's taking names and kicking some a$$. When I think of the rock'n, up-tempo style of this song, I think a good-quality, artisan Merlot. While Merlot grows all over the state of California, the best come from Napa Valley. This wine is big and bold, with structure and complexity, much like the song. Big guitar riffs, monster vocals, but complex with its harmony and depth. The unfiltered style of Newton's Merlot showcases the unadulterated side of Merlot. Much like Steve Miller Band's Keep On Rockn' Me showcases an unadulterated style of music. This pairing deserves a platinum record.
9. Penley Estate Shiraz/Cabernet 'Condor' from Australia with Fleetwood Mac's Go Your Own Way
Great rhythm, bold, harmonious. That's what the Penley Estate's Condor blend is to me. This pairing works well because, like this wine, Fleetwood Mac is blend of unique voices, talents, and personalities. This song highlights the harmony-rich, yet upbeat music the band is capable of delivering. A powerful red is needed to stand up to the rockin' tempo that Go Your Own Way brings. When you close your eyes and taste this wine, you experience the bright red fruit and spice from the Shiraz wrapped in the dark fruit and structure of Cabernet Sauvignon. Same with the song, you can hear the structure of Lindsey Buckingham softened by the beautiful and spicy Stevie Nicks.
10. Seghesio Zinfandel from California with Steppenwolf's Magic Carpet Ride
The final pairing on this top ten list has a special place in my heart. Steppenwolf's Magic Carpet Ride starts with a key rock 'n' roll ingredient, electric guitar. The song is powerful and loud, leaving even your 80-year-old grandmother tapping her food. To stand up to a song like this, we had to bring in the big guns, California's former flagship varietal, Zinfandel. Seghesio makes outstanding Zinfandels that are big, bold, powerful, and spicy. This is the perfect compliment for a rockin' good song like Magic Carpet Ride. The energy and power of the song is enhanced by the intense flavors and aromas of the wine. While Steppenwolf is from Canada and Zinfandel is a US wine, together they make a pairing that rocks the North American continent.
Well, there you go. A list of the top ten wine and classic rock pairings. Some of these descriptions may sound like a stretch, but try them out. The music will fill your ears, while the wine satisfies the rest of your senses, and together they'll take you places you've never been. And at the end of the day if you don't like the pairing, at least you have great music and great wine!
I realize plenty of great classic rock bands and songs didn't make it on this top ten list, so please feel free to shoot me an email, look me up on Facebook, or simply leave a comment right here on the blog with your favorite wine and classic rock music match.
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