Recently we were asked to pair wine with music. Not just music, classical songs by Liszt, Schubert, and Ravel, preformed live by Juilliard trained classical pianist, Soojin Ahn.
Pressure was on, but I was excited to work on this project. I actually wish this could have been the topic for my final essay in Advance Non-Fiction. It would have made the 40 pages a little less painful.
Below is the final list and collaborative thoughts on music and wine by Soojin and myself.
Music by the Glass
April 28, 2017
Liszt: Venezia e Napoli from Années de Pélerinage
Venezia e Napoli is a suite of three pieces that Liszt composed during his years in Italy. The first piece, Gondoliera, depicts a young blonde girl on a gondola. The mood is very lifting, clear and light, with lots of sound imagery of water glistening in the sun, the gondola gliding in water, sounds of bells, and ending with images of a sunset. Definitely white. This piece is obviously Venice.
Wine Pairing: 2014 Ciro Fiano Picariello di Avellino
This wine comes from Campania. Campania is a region in southwestern Italy known for its ancient ruins and dramatic coastline. Ciro practices natural grape growing and his wines are expressive and clean. This vineyards sit 2,000 feet above sea level and he hand picks all his grapes. This wine is alive with minerality from the clay, loam and sandstone soil the grapes were grown in. It has an aromatic nose with hints of lemon, stone fruit, and hazelnut. On the palate, peach and honeysuckle take the forefront, with just a hint of sea salt coming through due to the vineyards close proximity to the ocean. This seemed to be the perfect pairing for the song. There is a clarity and brightness to this wine that embodies the music.
There is no break between the Canzone and Tarantella. The Canzone is based on Othello, mainly his rage and despair. The whole piece vibrates with seething rage, and is full if operatic soliloquy. Desdemona makes the most fleeting appearance near the end. In fact, it’s so fleeting, pure, and transparent, I would say it’s a specter or spirit of Desdemona.
Wine Pairing: 2011 Pertimali Livio Sassetti Brunello Di Montalcino
This is one of our newer wines. It is full of dark blue/purple fruits but does have the rustic cigar box and leather characteristics classic to Brunello. It is bold and I think that the music may actually bring some weight to the wine. On the palate the wine is incredibly silky and smooth with dark fruits taking the forefront. It actually mirrors the narrative in the music. *** Othello ends up killing Desdemona by suffocating her with a pillow in her silk, wedding sheets.
The Tarantella starts without a break, but the transition is impossible to miss. The Tarantella is violent, unrefined, peasant-like. This is about simple minded people who are rough, loud, superstitious. The middle section has a swarthy man, slightly oily, trying to woo a pretty girl. She is not so innocent either and is very coy and knows all the tricks. As the piece develops, something magical does happen, and it seems like they are falling in love, but we’ll never know because the piece goes back to that hustle, bustle, and craziness of Naples.
Wine Pairing: 2013 Poggerino Chianti Classico
To me this portion of the piece should be paired with a classic Chianti table wine that has depth and tradition. Chianti Classico is right at the core of Italian culture. It’s a wine for the people, seething with bright, but dark cherry fruit, mocha & coffee. It’s romantic and rich, but juicy with plum, blackberry, and cherry. This is a wine that knows what it’s doing. To me this wine and this song depict the raw, unforgiving and beautiful Italian culture. The perfect symmetry between lust and love and why that combination can be so romantic, yet tragic at the same time.
Schubert: Impromptu in Gb major, Op. 90 no.3
“This is a completely different piece from the Liszt. What Schubert does that stands out is that he can make us feel opposite feelings at once. Schubert’s music is very pure, and it has absolutely none of the bravura or flashiness of the Liszt. The feeling I get when I play it is almost like having a glimpse of eternity. It has incredible longing, sense of loss, sense of fulfillment, passage of time, time standing still. It’s universal, yet incredibly personal. It’s fragrant, but without perfume. If I compare it to literature, I would compare it to Romain Rolland’s Jean- Christophe or Proust. Definitely not Dostoyevsky. If I may, I hear this as a red ( wine), but delicate, not bold, fragrant, and just beautiful. Schubert was a Viennese composer.”
Wine Pairing: 2012 Kirnbauer Blau Haus Blaufrankish
“BLAUFRÄNKISCHLAND” is what winos call Central Burgenland. It’s an eastern province in Austria. To the north, west and south this region is surrounded by a range of hills in addition to a lake which protects Central Burgenland from wind and retains heat. The soil here is loam clay producing quality dry red wine. This wine was inspired by the Blauhaus Art Movement that combined crafts and the fine arts. This Blaufränkish is dark ruby red in color. On the nose this wine is beautifully spicy with hints of dark fruit like blackberries and currant. Organic, biodynamic and sustainable farming practices. I couldn’t pair any other wine with this piece. I wanted to stay Austrian and this wine is everything Soon mentioned. It’s not bold or overbearing, it’s light and approachable with hints of red fruit, organic earth and hints of violet.
Ravel: La Valse
Ravel composed this piece in response to the WW1. He hated the war, and he hated the rich Viennese society. It feels like you are flying in the air ( the beginning), and you hear the beats of a waltz, just a little bit. It’s not very audible. You are surrounded by clouds, and then you notice some lights and sounds in the distance. Flying closer and closer, you begin to hear faint snippets of a waltz. When you arrive you see people whirling around, with empty, fake expressions on their faces. And then the chandelier goes on, there is a pop of the champagne, and the waltz starts. It gets faster and faster, more and more distorted. At the end, it’s not a waltz anymore, but a big machine that cannot stop itself until it destroys itself, which ultimately it does.
Wine Pairing: NV Henri Goutorbe Champagne Rosé
A classy fuller-bodied Champagne Rosé with hints of hazelnut. This wine has various layers of fruit for how big and powerful it actually is, which contributes to its bold personality. This wine follows the same progression as the song from soft and graceful to powerful and intense.