Melvyn Minnaar: Wine and music
By Melvyn Minnaar, 5 May 2021
We were enjoying a remarkably fine white wine, B Vintners Haarlem to Hope 2019 – yes, the one that has hanepoot in the glorious mix and just scored 91 in the Prescient Cape White Blend Report 2021 – when someone said “Turn off that noise.”
It wasn’t noise, but the radio blasting forth a Baroque recorder concerto in the background to a relaxed long lunch. (Ironically, of course, Haarlem to Hope refers exactly to the Baroque period: the era when those enterprising Dutch brought cuttings of steen, groendruif and muskaat to the Cape’s debut vineyards.)
If you didn’t encounter one to play-play in junior school, you may not know that this little wooden number is a very basic flute, without the timbre that the smart silver (or golden) concert flute can produce. A recorder, let me say, whether skilfully mastered in a Baroque concerto or not, ain’t the sound you want to hear when the wine in your glass takes you to sublime moments. As the mentioned above does.
So what should the music to drink wine by be?
Perhaps one should ask the wine.
The French website Vitisphere recently ran one of those smile-on-your-face pieces headed ‘The effects of music on wine can be tasted at Châteauneuf-du-Pape’. It reports how one of two similar batches of the same harvested grapes was vinified to music, the other not. Speakers, immersed under the pomace cap, played jazz for 45 days of fermentation.
And, said a négociant provençal called Lionel Boillot (We Wine!) the difference was clear. He quoted the actual winemaker, Arthur Mayard, who pronounced that there is “greater intensity in the musical wine, with higher alcohol and more residual sugars, more depth and greater texture”. Ah, oui!
We’ll take his word, but clearly monsieur Boillot saw the marketing gap, and, voila, cuvée spéciale ‘Père Pape in the Groove’. A cool €96 for a tasting box of the two versions to compare.
Now, of course, we know that De Morgenzon has been playing Baroque music to their glorious vines up on that hill and in the winery.
“French copycats,” huffed Hylton Appelbaum when I told him about the Châteauneuf-du-Pape ‘experiment’. “We play music in the vineyards to the growing plants and ripening grapes, in the cellar and in the tasting room.”
Their playlist – wait for it – he says, is all Baroque and Classical. “This is about harmony, maths and the waves.”
“Hylton has always been a great fan of Telemann,” says Adam Mason, who just completed his first harvest at De Morgenzon.
Georg Philipp Telemann (1681 – 1767) is the inspiration for De Morgenzon’s Maestro blended wines. (He also composed a number of pieces for recorder.)
“Our Maestros are all about the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. So it was with Telemann, the multi-instrumentalist who imparted in his work an ensemble greater than any one instrumentalist could possibly muster.”
Of course, a lot has been written about this kind of thing, so no need for cynicism. Who can argue about the joys of good music? Or should that be the emotional and cerebral effects of music, any music? As my desperate recorder-teacher said in those impressionable music-learning days: “Do you want to dance, listen, think, cry, laugh or run away?”
Which brings me back to accompaniment for a fine wine like the one on our lunch table. If a ravishing recorder going on in Baroque mode wasn’t what we needed, there certainly was no consensus about to play instead – and so poor Spotify got a confusing bash of opinionated shout-out requests.
Don’t care if I find myself in the dog box for this choice, but savouring the last glass after the guests left, I turned to the esoteric mysticism of Oliver Messaien (1908-1992) and his birdsong-inspired Le réveil des oiseaux. The wine sang along.
And when I asked Gavin Bruwer Slabbert of B Vintners about music to play with his Haarlem to Hope, he suggested the late Johannes Kerkorrel’s ‘Halala Afrika’ – the glorious hymn to Africa. I’ll have to get another bottle.
- Melvyn Minnaar has written about art and wine for various local and international publications over the years. The creativity that underpins these subjects is an enduring personal passion. He has served on a few “cultural committees”.
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