Listening to music changes the way we perceive things—even, or perhaps especially, wine. I clearly remember last April when I met my friend at his rock studio here in Hong Kong. I got to the studio (equipped with a full stage, premium sound equipment and instruments for seven) and was shown the enormous wine cellar on the other side of the room, insulated from vibration and in perfect condition. I understood the way John Kinsella felt in Field of Dreams when he asked his son, “Is this heaven?” and was told, “No. It’s Iowa.” For one Sunday, I thought heaven was located in the Chai Wan district of Hong Kong.
As the house band started playing its repertoire of mostly Eagles ballads, we sat back and enjoyed a few finer Champagnes. The set list picked up, and the growing bass thrummed in sync with our move into a deeper Bordeaux. A well-timed guitar solo found me taking longer with each sip and blocking out everything but the Fender Stratocaster and Château Lascombes. The evening concluded, I returned to earth, and I filed this epiphany in the back of my mind; however, not long after, another music/wine synergy occurred.
“Lover You Should’ve Come Over,” the seventh track off of Jeff Buckley’s album Grace was playing in my apartment. I had a glass of Josko Gravner’s 2002 Ribolla Anfora in hand and was sipping. It felt as if the wine transformed into Buckley’s voice in amber, liquid form. Gravner’s wine has often struck me as artistic: fully alive, ever-evolving and somehow always striking the right chord. Like Gravner’s wine, Buckley’s voice is unfiltered and pure. I’ve never heard another singer pull off this song like Buckley, and I can’t help but note that there is only one Gravner.
Finding common threads in music and wines is easy if you think about your favorites. But having it occur spontaneously—and being perceptive enough to notice when it does—is an unexpected reward and an infinite pleasure. And if you do have a wine pairing for Springsteen’s “Born to Run,” Zeppelin’s “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” or Pearl Jam’s “Black,” I’d love to know.