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Parliament Drinkadelic: Pairing Drinks with Music, Part 1

Everyone always associates the phrase ‘wine pairings’ with selecting food that complements a bottle of wine. Maybe it’s because I went to school to study jazz drums or the fact that our office has a DJ booth, but I feel that something as subjective as wine should go hand in hand with music. I’m obviously not the first person to think this way: Maynard James Keenan of the rock band Tool has his own Caduceus Cellars; Dave Mathews has his own winery in Virginia; Primus bassist, Les Claypool heads Claypool Cellars in the Russian River Valley; and even Boz Scaggs, lead singer of the Steve Miller Band, is the proprietor of Scaggs Vineyard. There’s a clear connection between these two mediums, and I need to figure out what it is before drinking at the Shins concert tonight.

Pairing with Jay-Z last year

When it comes to music and wine pairings, there are a few obvious choices. For instance, there’s Jay-Z and Cristal – later Armand de Brignac after the whole Cristal/hip hop debacle – or David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust with the horrifying Chardonnay that bottles its wine with little flakes of gold leaf inside. These are the wine and music equivalents to classic pairings such as Champagne and caviar, Cabernet and a cow, or Muscadet and oysters; they just work. The Shins, however, are a little harder to pair.

James Mercer’s jangly, sustaining guitar chords make me think of something flashy, long, but also pretty and airy. This makes me think of Gamay, Beaujolais’ champion grape, which can be ultra fruity up front, but also long-lived, lithe and beautiful.

But then there’s the rhythm section, which is always plugging along, always in a state of forward motion. This makes me think of the acidity in Riesling and its electricity; the feeling that the wine is so intent on getting somewhere that if you didn’t keep your mouth shut, it would jump right off your palate.

And then there are the atmospheric synths. If I wanted to echo this, I’d probably go straight to absinthe, but I think I want to foil this with something more grounded – like countering spice with sweetness in food. I want a wine that has structure to spare, so that the music can be as off the wall as it wants to be.

So what wine will combine the structure needed to tame all these hippie musician types, pretty aromatics and longevity as is found in Gamay, and the searing, electric acidity of Riesling? It’s settled; I’m drinking Nebbiolo before the Shins. Nebbiolo, despite its deep tannic structure is actually a very heady, beautifully scented and fruited wine – more akin to Pinot Noir than a high octane Cab. Between its rosy aromatics, flashy cherry fruit, searing acidity and structure to sustain eons, this is the perfect wine to pair with all facets of The Shins. That said, I think the venue only carries Bud Light.

Stay tuned next week to see what I pair with this Sunday’s George Clinton concert and Monday’s Spiritualized performance. And give your suggestions below!

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