What I learned about wine from going to a gig


What I learned about wine from going to a gig

Monday was fun. I arrived at Heathrow at nine in the morning. I’d just flown in from Montreal on a short overnight flight that took some six hours. By the time I’d watched some TV and eaten my meal, I only had about three hours to sleep. Lesson one: skip the bad airline food and don’t watch movies, but instead try to go straight to sleep on these overnight flights.

I got back home, unpacked and had a bath. Then I headed into town for lunch at Hix in Smithfield. It was a producer lunch with Hunter Smith of Frankland Estate in Western Australia. Nice wines, and some lovely oysters followed by beautifully cooked meat. We ate well, and tasted some back vintages: this is always interesting, especially with relatively new wine regions. Great Southern, the large area that includes Frankland River where Hunter’s family was a pioneer, is a great place for growing wine grapes.

Lunch finished about 15:45, and then I went to meet Kati Vainionpää from Wine Australia at Terroirs. I bumped into Doug Wregg and Mick Craven, and had a quick chat before she arrived. Terroirs is a real gem and I love going there. Kati turned up, we ordered some chacuterie, and had a few glasses, starting with a cider from Eric Bordelet, then a beautiful Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon blend from Patrick Sullivan in Victoria (the grapes are related, after all), and finally a deliciously inexpensive Rhone red from Les Vignerons d’Estézargues, which is on tap.

I left and rushed over to the Draper’s Arms, where I met up with Mick Craven (again) and Nick Gibson, the owner. We were off to a gig. A quick glass of the excellent Trenzado white from Suertes del Marques, and then an uber to the Roundhouse in Camden.

The gig in question? Gary Clark Jr. We had a quick couple of pints and then headed in. The Roundhouse is a stunning venue: originally designed as a sort of undercover turntable for trains, when they needed to change direction, it became famous as a music venue in the sixties. Recently renovated, it’s a great place to listen to bands, and with a capacity of around 3000, it seems quite intimate, but big enough to generate a great atmosphere.

Gary Clark Jr. is brilliant. This was an epic gig. But I was fabulously jet lagged by this stage, and didn’t make it to the end. But I loved it, and Mick and Nick are great company. The gig made me think about wine.

In terms of music itself, as an aural sensation, going to a live show is not a terribly good way of consuming it. The sound quality at the Roundhouse is very good, but you hear the music much more clearly on a good sound system at home, or with headphones on.

The way we taste and write about wine sometimes reduces it to simply a liquid with a particular smell and taste. We obsess about the flavour of wine, and rightly so. But to rule out the other aspects of wine is just like seeing music as merely an aural experience.

If this were the case, people wouldn’t go to concerts. There’s the inconvenience of getting there. The expense. The queues. Getting home again. And the sound quality. It’s clear from the popularity of gigs that there’s something about the occasion that makes attending well worth putting up with these drawbacks. The fact that you are seeing the artist perform live clearly matters. The occasion of a concert also has something special about it. Is it all that different with wine? There’s so much around the occasion of drinking wine that is separate from the properties of the liquid in the glass. There’s also the issue of authenticity: we care about the context of the wine just as much as we do about the flavour, and this context – along with the nature of the consumption event – also affect our perception of the flavour of the wine in a direct way.

For me, wine is so much more than a liquid with a particular flavour, just as music is much more than simply an auditory experience. That’s what I learned from my lovely Monday.


7 Comments on What I learned about wine from going to a gig
wine journalist and flavour obsessive

7 thoughts on “What I learned about wine from going to a gig

  1. Aside from agreeing strongly with what you say, I also know several people at that gig, including my son, who dutifully brought me the new album, “This Land”, which I have played four times already since he gave it to me yesterday lunch time. He said the gig was profoundly good. The album, eclectic and broader than the older stuff, is magnificent too. I shall be spreading it around next time anyone needs a gift.

    I’m also thankful for your jet-lagged appreciation of the music as I’ve just bought tickets for a gig on the same day I arrive back from Australia at Heathrow early afternoon a bit later in the year. I’m hoping my optimism (delays and jetlag) is well founded (three tickets at £32 each).

    I’m always grateful for your perspective, and that like me you love music at least as much as wine.

  2. Jamie ecrit
    ‘…I was fabulously jet lagged by this stage’
    Ermmm, shouldnt that read ‘…I was fabulously drunk by this stage’?
    I mean how does one know the difference between one and the other?

  3. You have a far stronger constitution than I Jamie based on the details of your day! How did the Isolation Ridge hold up to extended cellaring or do you plan on publishing reviews? Maybe the notes have been reduced to a hazy recollection….

  4. Hi Jamie
    Years ago I used to work as a music critic for the local paper. I still get comments about an article I wrote back then. I had written that while the music was good, a recording was clearly a better version. On the other hand, as we sat in the audience and watched the timpani player hammer away with a great big smile on his face, we experienced something you can never get from a recording.

Leave a Reply

Back To Top