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.

 

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