Thursday 2 February 2017

The Unending Nightmare: Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon And Iggy Pop. Or Schubert

So the world of wine-drinking is abuzz, apparently, with talk about the relationship between wine and music - or, more accurately, the relationship between the taste of wine and the environmental influences which affect it; among them, music. I thought we'd had enough of this kind of limelit nonsense, but no: here comes some guy from Oxford, getting The Guardian's otherwise perfectly sage Fiona Beckett all worked up about the beneficial symbiosis between music and drink ('It needs more of this sort of synaesthetic approach'); while over here is a rival from Herriot-Watt University, toiling away at the same thesis (Carmina Burana an intriguing part of the deal). And over here is PK, nudging me to give it a whirl. 'Go on,' he says, insinuatingly, 'you like all that stuff.'

This much I do know: wine affects your appreciation of music. When things are going well, it helps you dial out from your everyday preoccupations and nagging discomforts and allows you to concentrate on what's being played. There's even an argument that in order to submit entirely to some types of classical music or avant-garde jazz, you have to be a bit pissed. Wine as a music modifier, I get. Music as a wine modifier, on the other hand, sounds like the point at which we decide to make our lives so mindful and multifaceted that nothing, not even having a shave or cleaning the windows, cannot but be enhanced by the presence of a soundtrack. Which in turn sounds like the point at which music loses whatever cultural sovereignty it might have once enjoyed and becomes as meaningful as a paint chart, but what do I know?

Very well. It's time to test the hypothesis. The wine on offer? A concrete-floor Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon, already open for three days, mainly on account of the fact that day one has to go by while the stuff blows off gases and poison vapours, while day two I forget about its existence, leaving it here on day three, subdued but still rancid. Just taking the cap off fills the room with the smell of a busy motorway, but we are where we are, and this is the wine I intend to modify.

I take a sip of the stuff in what passes for silence in this house. Some caramel moments, followed by a long racking cough of alcohol and carpet underlay. I call up my virtual jukebox - seven thousand individual tracks to chose from, covering the waterfront from Thomas Tallis to Tame Impala, yes, that's how charmingly catholic I am in my tastes - and invite it to randomise me a track. Turns out it's Blues With A Feeling by the fabulous Little Walter. Another sip of the booze. Well, yes, the demonic potency of Little Walter's lament about women and loneliness does sort of chime with the Cabernet Sauvignon, but does it make the experience richer or just noisier? I await the next track.

Which turns out to be Herbie Hancock's Cantaloupe Island, a super-likeable piece of Easy Jazz, and you'd think that this really ought to make my wine reconsider its position, that this would be the great ameliorator, but no. It just makes me wish I was drinking something mellower and more persuasive, something that tastes a bit like Herbie Hancock, in fact.

Getting desperate, I elect to play a snatch of Schubert: the second movement of his Piano Sonata in D Major, D 850, the Gasteiner. Surely we can get somewhere with this dignified, limpid, yet playful bonne bouche from the Late Classical period? Kind of yes, kind of no. A glass of 13.5% rough red wine on an empty stomach has certainly given me the perspective with which to stop, settle myself and contemplate the timeless verities of Franz Schubert and wonder what he might have gone on to write if he hadn't died at the age of thirty-one. But there's no getting away from the fact that the wine is every bit as lousy as it was; the only good news being that I'm getting used to it, now.

Last chance? Dirt, from Iggy Pop and the Stooges. Actually, I think we have something, here: a nihilistic, junk-fuelled, bug-eyed, self-loathing, doom-filled, morbidly hedonistic rock classic from the powerfully toxic early Seventies. I've been dirt, groans Iggy, while The Stooges labour vengefully away in an echoing meat safe, and I don't care. In the context of Dirt, this Chilean embalming fluid positively sings. But, seriously, does this count as an achievement?


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