STOP, SIP, AND LISTEN
Be it through a new composition, or a curated playlist, music can elevate a wine experience
Last year, the late Japanese musician and pioneer of electronic music, Ryuichi Sakamoto, composed a symphony that distills his experience roaming the vineyards and tasting the nectar at Krug Champagne. Equally transportive is DJ and musician Skinny Pablo’s Paris Mosel, an album deeply influenced by terroir. These multisensory, immersive soundscapes evoke the spirit of winemaking, and seek to shift our senses, and elevate our experience of wine.
But how do musicians and DJs go about composing soundscapes and curating playlists to move us to experience, taste and feel wine, in new and exciting ways? We spoke with two in the industry to understand the process.
THE GRAND TOUR
With its signature funky and recyclable can packaging, indie wine brand Djuce continues to push the bar with its latest Audio Tour. This 25 minute-long audio experiment is designed to take you to different vineyards, from the Austrian natural wine superstars Meinklang, to the German winemaker Kathrin Mehling, Beaujolais at Dominique Piron and rosé wine from Famille Chaudière. David Dworsky, Djuce co-founder and creative director, discusses the journey from concept to audio tour.
What ignited the idea?
With Djuce we want to shake things up in the wine world, and design new types of wine experiences. So, naturally we started looking at the pretty outdated and traditional wine tasting format.
We have a lot of different ideas, but one of them was around sound and focus. We wanted to make it more of an inner personal journey, and less of a lecture by a sommelier. We also wanted to design something that everyone can do in their home, that didn’t cost too much and was both fun and easy to do.
How did you then go about composing the audio experience?
As we wanted it to be a lot about what happens in your mind and in your senses, we took inspiration from the meditation world and mixed it up with effects, various types of music and a mighty speaker. We used both sounds taken from the actual vineyards and created some effects ourselves. We then edited the whole thing with a sound engineer.
Where did these sounds come from?
In our experiments, we chose very different types of music for the different vineyards and parts of the tour. Since it’s a long journey, the music also had to be both surprising and varied. We didn’t want to have some French sounding score just because we’re visiting a French vineyard.
Did the process of creating lead to the unexpected?
It was a lot of testing back and forth. At first, the tour was a long experience with no pauses, but we quickly realized that people still want to be social and talk to their friends so we added a break after each vineyard to give people the chance to discuss, laugh and learn from each other.
What did you hope the audience would experience?
We really wanted to help the listener to be mentally transported to the vineyard – to feel, hear and almost smell the place.
How do you see the musical experience elevate the wine experience?
I think it has a really big effect. Drink a Pinot Noir while listening first to some Iron Maiden and then to a bit of Chopin. The wine will taste, and feel, quite different.
And will this lead to further such ventures?
Definitely. We’re already planning new formats of wine tastings and new ways to play with wine and sounds. There is so much untapped creative potential in this space.
Charlie Reyes is a New York-based DJ and sommelier. He founded Audio Culture to curate music for bars and restaurants, including a playlist for our Maze Row East Coast launch party last September at Fotografiska in Manhattan. Reyes shares how he uses his craft, and his knowledge of music and wine, to design playlists to help elevate the hospitality experience.
What is the process of compiling a playlist, and do you have a routine?
It is about getting to know the client, as we did with Maze Row. Music selection for guests has a pretty standard formula, so the details of a music program really rest in what the message the client is trying to convey to its guests.
Some spaces want head-nodding music, while one bar asked for music that will make guests sweaty. When putting together music for either an office party or a wine portfolio release event, the music always has to reflect the message. Nostalgia is quite possibly the biggest tool in a DJ’s toolbox, but what makes it effective is how you use it to connect to the crowd. A music curator or DJ uses music just like chefs use food to inspire emotion.
How do you use your musical knowledge to elevate an experience?
At Audio Culture we curate playlists to connect the space and its staff with guests in a way that rivals the food and wine experience. Music is such a connector of people all around the world. [Hip-hop group] Wu-Tang Clan once talked about their first world tour, and how they couldn’t fathom how kids in Italy didn’t speak English, but knew all the words to "C.R.E.A.M." When you play the right song at the right time in a restaurant or bar, you will have finance bros and soccer moms singing along to Beyoncé and Jay Z before you even know it.
What’s been one of the most successful compilations you’ve curated?
It will always be my music program at (Soho restaurant) Charlie Bird. Hip hop is my alchemy. So being able to say I have basically been their resident DJ for a decade now is super humbling and will always hold a huge place in my heart. It is after all, where my entire story began.
What are the challenges of using music to spark up a party?
It’s never the music, it’s always the people. Unless you see a jukebox inside a bar, don’t make a request. Everyone swears their workout playlist is the most mind-blowing thing anyone has ever heard. Let the guys with the headphones and the laptops do their jobs.
And the rewards?
One of the best things, maybe the best thing, is the showing of emotion when you play the right song, at the right time. That “ooooo” from the crowd when all of a sudden everyone sings along, terribly, but in unison and having a blast. That is a rush of adrenaline and instant gratification that is pretty intoxicating. Looking into a crowd and realizing you’re controlling the music and they give you the “hell yeah nod.” And the absolute best question is when people ask, “can I have this playlist?”
Audio Culture’s playlist for Maze Row is available to download on Spotify.
MJ Towler meets underground music producer and Riesling aficionado Skinny Pablo to see how his debut vinyl album Paris Mosel brings wine and terroir into play
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THE ARCHITECTURE OF WINERIES
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