Tuesday, December 08, 2009

What wine to pair with Bach?

Our good friends Mark and Sandra invited me to Montreal's Bach Festival...for a wine tasting! A very intriguing concept - what wine to pair with Bach's Goldberg Variations?

Not a concept really, as research has shown that music can affect our appreciation of wine. Well, eXcentris, Matt Haimovitz and sommelier Nicolas Charron Boucher took this research to heart, enlisting Nicolas to pair wine with the nine canons of the Variations (Dmitri Sitkovetsky’s arrangement for String Trio), as performed by cellist Matt Haimovitz, violinist Jonathan Crow and violist Douglas McNabney.

Taking his cues from musicians' descriptions on the pieces, Nicolas chose as follows:

Actually, the first pairing started not with the first canon, but was the Aria. For this piece Nicolas chose the Xerez Manzanilla Papirusa Solera Reserva Lustau. Almondy, oxidized, with hints of orange peel, this tart and crisp liquid slashed across the palate, yet smooth and sunshine-y at the same time. I question the music pairing, but a good example of Spanish sherry.

Variation III, the Canone all'Unisono, featured a 2008 Domaine Landron Amphibolite (Muscadet de Sevre et Maine sur Lie). Soapy and minerally with citrus and white flowers on the nose, fresh and lively white grapefruit on the palate. Really a delicious white wine, with great persistency - a highlight of the evening, and it even paired beautifully with the music.

Variation VI, the Canone alla Seconda, featured a 2007 Chateau Thivin Cotes de Brouilly. Not a hit with my friends, but I really liked this stark, smokey and earthy Bojo replete with ripe strawberries...light and silky it danced across the palate, an incredibly long finish and a good pair with this music.

Variation IX, the Canone alla Terza, paired with a 2007 Inama Vigneti Foscarino Soave Classico Superiore. It's been a while since I sipped a Soave, so this nose of lychee, peach, pears, flowers and cheese rind was a glorious reminder of Soave's potential. Minerally, flavourful and well balanced, a great summer white and a good music pairing (but another miss with my friends).

Variation XII, the Canone alla Quarta, was matched to Portuguese red, the Casal do Jordoes Guardiao Vinho de Mesa Tinto. A hit with the whole gang, a nose of sour cherries, spicy oak, tobacco and violets, a palate of crisp cherry fruit, delicate tannins and great balance...bitter citrus peel later on. A wine worth seeking out, and a decent pairing for this music.

For Variation XV, the Canone alla Quinta, we moved north to France, a pairing with the 2007 Chateau Haut Marsalet (Bergerac). Green, musty forest notes...blackberries, violet, pepper and fresh mint as well. Very dry, with dense grainy tannins and a touch hot. Rather similar to the Grinou that I like, a good pair with the music.

Variation XXI, the Canone alla Settima, featured the 2007 L'Ocre Rouge, a Vin de Table from the Rhone. Tarry blueberry fruit, earthy and warm, sweaty old leather...greener and crisper than I expected on the palate, but still a fruit bomb. Needs a steak, a great pair for the music.

Variation XXIV, the Canone all'Ottava, was paired to a wine from one of my all time favourite wineries. The 2006 Chateau Bouscasse did not disappoint - rustic, yet complex, with liquorice and funky new leather on the nose, green herbs and gravel as well. Smooth green tannins, tart cherry fruit and a great finish, mmmm....and it worked reasonably well with this piece.

The ninth, and final, wine for Variation XXVIII (Canone alla Nona) was a 2002 Muenzenrieder Trockenbeerenauslese, a dessert wine from Austria. A terrific wine to pair with our final Variations....rather simple - sweet apricot notes, soft and sweet on the palate, very elegant.

Once again, my notes are too long, but it was a special evening worth of journalistic record!

So, the highlights? Hats off to the entire trio for a lovely afternoon of music, and as my son is a budding cellist Matt's playing was particularly noteworthy. And kudos to the organizers for coming up with this idea - it is a foundation to build on and I look forward to attending this event in the future.

Anything I'd recommend for future events? Nine glasses of wine and not a cracker or hunk of bread to munch on?! The deluge of wine, especially such different wines, was difficult to take on an empty stomach - a small basket of oyster crackers would have sufficed.

Many thanks to Mark, Sandra and Shira for organizing, Cheers!


David said...

Sounds like a fun event (even sans crackers!). My first thought, seeing the title, was a Riesling. But then I imagined listening to a Bach piece that called for something like the "smoky red" you described, huddled up against the cold winter.

Joe said...

Hi David - imagine drinking all those wines at 4 in the afternoon, with no food. A bit tipsy...anyway, each variation relates to different countries (i.e. Spain, France) so they tried to match to wine to where the music influence came from