music pairing

What music and wine pair well with the first snow of the season?

Those of us who have spent time on the East Coast always eagerly anticipate the first snowfall, and in some parts of the country, flakes have already begun to fall. Here at Five Senses Tastings, the coming of cold weather brings to mind blazing fires and warming red wines. Never mind that it's still 75 degrees here in Los Angeles, we can all start dreaming about winter wonderlands!

Taking a snowy themed piece such as Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake as an example, a ballet that has sweeping lines, powerful orchestration, and yet many sweet tender moments, our minds were immediately taken to Alpen landscapes and snow-covered mountains.

It is not a commonly known fact that quite a few Alpen regions make incredible wines, and we are here to introduce you to at least one today, from the Italian Alps to be precise. This region, in the far northeastern part of Italy, is home to a lot of white grapes, but also to some interesting and unique red varietals. As one might guess, there is a strong German influence here as well, so many of the grapes are grown in both countries. One of the most delicious red wines here is made from Teroldego, a grape varietal native to this region, which is largely known as Trentino-Alto Adige.

A favorite Teroldego of ours is made by a woman named Elisabetta Foradori, whose family established the winery in 1901. She now makes the wine, and supervises the still small biodynamically certified winery that specializes in red wine making, and primarily that of Teroldego. Her Teroldego has many of the tempestuous qualities of Swan Lake, in that it comes off as rich, full and animalistic, yet still manages to maintain an elegance and freshness, making it a bit of a contradiction. But what a wonderful contradiction!! It has those exact warm, velvety, silky qualities that one wants when they curl up by a fire with a partner, while they dive into a delicious meal of lamb chops or steak.

What does our pairing process look like?

We here at Five Senses Tastings often get asked what our creative process is for pairing music and wine. While we understand that, just like wine and food pairing sometimes, it is subjective, we hope that this series of “pairing essays” might give you a little more insight into how we do what we do.

One of the very first pairings that we ever worked with was Poulenc chansons paired with Beaujolais-Villages – what amazingly good fit! I’ve made a point of singing quite a bit of Poulenc throughout my musical career and to find such a great pairing was a real treat!

When I think of this combination, I think specifically of Côte-de-Brouilly and Poulenc's Banalités. (Even more to the point, I think of the song Hôtel).

Hôtel, for example, epitomizes the languorous, sensuous quality that Poulenc often employed in his chansons. This song evokes a slow sunny day, where the speaker just wants to indulge in smoking and lying around, rather than working. Though there is a beautiful simplicity at the surface, the complexity in the poetry and harmonic language comes through the more the listener delves into it.

Likewise, Beaujolais often has that devious simplicity going for it. Any red wine from Beaujolais will be made from the Gamay grape. In the form of Beaujolais Nouveau, Gamay is light, fun, fruity and fresh, yet still a bit sexy. When you move into more specific Villages appellations, like Brouilly, with distinctive soils and climates that add more character to the wine, you get a different Gamay entirely. This is when you encounter the underlying complexity. Additionally, the silkiness of Gamay gives a sexiness that harkens back to the languidity of the Banalités.