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Music & Wine

Columnist Tristan Darby explores the sensory world of Vinyl & Vine...

I love the idea of introducing audiences to new wines and new experiences, so over the last few years, I've watched with increasing interest as different ways to pair wine have emerged. There's wines with books (not for me - after half a glass I doubt I'd even finish a page). Then there’s film and wine - tasting wines consumed in the film as you go (think 'Sideways' or 'James Bond'). But my favourite pairing idea combines my two greatest sensory pleasures - music and wine.

Surely this idea isn't so far-fetched? There's an age-old cultural link between alcohol and music, and you may have read about the numerous studies into the effect that different types of music have on flavour perception. Taking this idea a step further, husband and wife team Russ and Lacey of Stylus Vinyl have created a subscription service sending out monthly boxes of classic albums on vinyl paired with a great bottle of wine and a custom-commissioned artwork. It's a smart idea, and as a music and wine nut, I'm delighted to be on the pairing panel at their wine supplier, Great Western Wine.

Sometimes we choose a wine that matches the artist's character or story, sometimes it's the album's tone or theme and occasionally - it's both.

Take Prince's iconic album Purple Rain, for example. Prince was truly one-of-a kind. Quirky, eccentric, visionary and a virtuoso multi-instrumentalist to boot. Purple Rain was a huge commercial hit that merged styles, took risks (e.g. Prince removed the bassline on "When Does Cry") and inspired a generation. It brims from start to finish with energy, sex and soul, and is full of contrasting themes - pleasure, sadness, celebration, isolation, hope, despair, religion, sex - that all work seamlessly together to make this timeless album, which although 'of its time', sounds as fresh and relevant 33 years on.

The perfect match is d'Arenberg's Love Grass Shiraz. Winemaker, Chester Osborn, is also one-of-a-kind and one of the wine world’s most colourful characters. He's an art-loving maverick famed for his loud shirts and larger-than-life personality, and luckily for us - he's also a brilliant winemaker who has helped to establish d'Arenberg as one of Australia's leading family-owned wineries. Their commercial success hasn't stopped Chester from pushing boundaries, and The Love Grass is one of their many brilliantly quirky wines. Shiraz is the main grape here, blended with an eclectic mix of contrasting international varieties such as Cab Sauv, Merlot and Petit Verdot (Bordeaux), Tinta Cao (Portugal), Viognier (Rhone) Tempranillo (Spain), Sagrantino (Italy) and Pinot Noir (Burgundy). Quite a blend, but they work in perfect harmony to produce a big, bold red with complex layers of aroma and flavour. There are juicy black and red fruits, some peppery spice, dark chocolate, liquorice and a touch of smoky savoury herbs. Love Grass is a wonderful wine that's ready to drink now, but like Purple Rain will still be in fine shape a few years down the line.

If you fancy trying some pairings out for yourself, join Tristan on 19th October at GWW for a Vinyl & Vine tasting. Tickets at greatwesternwine.co.uk

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