Some wine merchants are serious, sterile and intimidating places, devoid of music and joy. They can feel like stuffy old libraries or the cobwebbed halls of museums, where the noise must be kept to a minimum to avoid upsetting the hallowed beverages stacked therein. Conversations must be conducted in hushed tones and must revolve solely around flavours, aromas, grape varieties, viticulture, vinification, vintages, terroir and food matching. From a distance these repetitive mumblings could be mistaken for a scratched Tubular Bells record. Don't get us wrong, that stuff's important; it's the bread and butter of the wine trade. But there is more to wine if you dig deeper in the crates with us...
"Four Seasons" Vivaldi
So what is Oddbins proposing? Well, we'll tell you. We want your oenological experience with us to be more of a magical mystery tour than a damp funeral dirge. Keen to strike a different chord, we are going to create a vinous symphony. Therefore, our first step was to don cravats, stern expressions and ruffled hair and ask ourselves "what would Ludwig do?" Although getting a bit too far into van Beethoven's character we struggled to hear it, the answer was simple, divide the year into four movements, assign each movement an unusual theme and explore what wine means to us and to you. If you missed our first movement, we forgive you, but you'll want to get involved with this next one. Our second movement starts on 2nd May and will be based on the theme of "sound".
"I Can Hear Music"- The Beach Boys
Why sound? Well again that's simple; wine and sound are intrinsically linked. Champagne should be opened with a whisper. People whirl around like dervishes if they hear corks popping behind them. If you pour wine into a glass and bring it to your ear quickly you can hear it snapping gently. You gurgle when you taste wine. Glasses reverberate when you run your finger around them and there are few more gut wrenching sounds than a wine glass smashing on a tile floor. We talk about wine singing, of its high notes and low notes, dammit when you talk about structure, complexity and lengthy finishes you might just as well be describing "Sinnerman" by Nina Simone. This fermented grape juice has a melody and rhythm all of its own.
"Don’t Stop the Music" Rihanna
The second reason for choosing "sound" is that our shops are a noisy buzzing haven in the midst of an industry that can sometimes take itself a little too seriously. You never know what you are going to hear when you wander into an Oddbins shop, the playlists are as eclectic and wonderful as our staff. While browsing, customers often ask "what is this song?" Well, it might be Dr Alimantado's wonderfully named dub "Best Dressed Chicken in Town", it might be the frankly harrowing "Cry Little Sister" from the Lost Boys Soundtrack rekindling your inner goth or it might be New Zealand's finest, Fat Freddy's Drop, transporting you back to your holiday halfway round the world. Pop in and see what's playing, because wine and music are two of our best friends…
"You’ve Got a Friend"- Carole King
On that subject, imagine you've got a friend coming over. You splash a little bleach around the toilet bowl, half-heartedly run the hoover over the visible patches of the living room, plump the cushions, put some food on the hob to simmer and make an excellent wine choice with a little help from your friendly wine merchant. But the next step is choosing some music, which is easier said than done, isn't it? It has to set the ambience of the evening and say "yeah I'm cool" but at the same time "no I just threw these tunes on without deliberating over it for ages". But how carefully do you think about matching those sounds to your wine?
“The Sounds of Science”- The Beastie Boys
Did you know that the music playing can prime your brain to react in a certain way to things placed in front of you? Weird huh? Heriot Watt University, Texas Tech University, Clark Smith of wine consultancy Vinovation and the late Californian winemaker Don Blackburn, to name a few, have all carried out experiments to determine a link between music and wine. The results of these include the following: customers spend more if classical music is playing in a shop and are more likely to buy German wine if oompah band music is playing, red wines respond to the negative emotion of a minor key, tasters will more readily describe the character of wines as zingy and refreshing or powerful and heavy if the music playing matches those categories, Cabernet Sauvignon likes dark angry music, Pinots like sexy tunes and that music may have a positive impact on the taste of a wine even if you don't like the song. Weirdly, one of the most widely read and influential wine books in the world is a Japanese Manga cartoon called "The Drops of God", and this cracking read contains a whole chapter comparing a great French wine to Queen. This is all getting too much, it sounds like enough to warrant Pandora developing a Music Vin-ome Project…
“The Wine Song”- The Cat Empire
But it's not just the scientists and writers, the actual musicians love the stuff too. If you want proof, do you recognise any of these: "red wine bottle, half the contents gone", "chilli-con-carne, sparkling Champagne", "businessmen they drink my wine", "it's a black fly in your Chardonnay". Many musicians are so passionate about it they've even started making it, unfortunately this list also contains some decidedly dubious characters: AC/DC, Dave Matthews, Mick Fleetwood, Lil Jon (Crunk Grape Juice?), Madonna, Dave Stewart, Cliff Richard (mistletoe and wine?), Motörhead (presumably quite dark wine), Lady Gaga and Mick Hucknall (Ruby Cabernet to match his ruby tooth?). Are you proud of us for resisting the temptation to make the Simply Red gag even though that beauty literally fell from the stars straight into our arms?
“What’s Going On?” - Marvin Gaye
So all this got us thinking. Is there a perfect song match for each of our wines? Will our summery Albariños be enhanced by a splash of Astrid Gilberto singing "The Girl From Ipanema"? Will Prokofiev's "Dance of the Knights" bring out the dark and dramatic depths of a brooding Aussie Shiraz? Is ribless sex pest Prince too sexy for your Pinot? Or will a mellow modern Merlot respond to a slice of new soul sensation Michael Kiwanuka? As we have said, we love music, but we don't have all of the answers. For example we have no idea what happened to Jive Bunny, why Skee Lo wished for a "rabbit in a hat with a bat", how at 5'9" Florence Welch survives with only a rabbit heart or what this obsession with all things leporine is all about. All this is very lyrical, but when do you get to crack open the good stuff? Well when it comes to the olfactory we are masters, but when it comes to the auditory we are going to need your help. So pour yourself a glass of one of Oddbins' finest and tell us your favourite music match and why. Let's start this noisy debate. You can do this via your local Oddbins branch, our website, Twitter, Facebook or simply by singing it from the rooftops…
“Tour de France”- Kraftwerk
We love to set ourselves a challenge. So we have decided to start with a country whose own music set the alarm bells ringing at Oddbins Towers: France. French music is just "Joe le Taxi" and crusty old vampire lookalike Johnny Hallyday, isn't it? Well after ascertaining that Johnny Hallyday's real name is Jean-Philippe Smet and a bout of snickering at the frankly rude sounding name "Smet", we discovered that France has a wealth of music that almost rivals that of its wine. It's home to a burgeoning hip-hop scene with the likes of Outlines, Chinese Man, Hocus Pocus, Wax Tailor and Abd Al Malik. A French twist on an American classic might be ideal with our Tablas Creek Esprit de Beaucastel, a French classic with the twist of being made in America. Just like our wine collection France is also home to eclectic and quirky, like Camille, Manu Chao, Tahiti 80, Nouvelle Vague and Onra. We still even find some guilty pleasure in a bit of French house music, maybe with an unconventional Picpoul de Pinet, St Aubin or a Loire Valley red. And to be honest the old-school classics of St Germain, Edith Piaf, Debussy and Serge Gainsbourg are still as timelessly cool as Bordeaux, Burgundy and Champagne. So why not try sticking on Paris' own Radio Nova, which you can stream directly from their website, with your next bottle of the French stuff?
“If You Wanna”- The Vaccines
As you read this, we know that your hands are already inching towards the corkscrew and that the firing of the neurons in your brain is quickening as the ideas take shape. The wine industry needs you, the music industry needs you and we at Oddbins need you. And what's more we propose to reward you handsomely for your efforts. Yes, you heard us correctly: there are prizes to be won! Up for grabs are six pairs of festival tickets, cases of wine and honorary places on the Oddbins Music and Wine Matching Panel (OMWMP). Before you say it we realise that we may need a catchier acronym when the fame of this movement explodes. The deadline for entries is 15th June 2012. "If you wanna" be even more of a winner than you already are, all you have to do is tell us your ultimate music match for an Oddbins wine. We don't care if it's brand new music from Jack White, Nicki Minaj, Ed Sheeran, Lana Del Rey, Adele or Rocket Juice and the Moon, or if it's old school, funk, blues, jazz, classical or the theme music from "The Mysterious Cities of Gold". Just grab a pen and an entry form from one of our shops and get scribbling. Alternatively you can enter online through our website, shout it through a megaphone until a passing Oddbins staff member hears it or tie it to the foot of a carrier pigeon and thrust it on a course for our head office. To completely mangle Oleta Adams, "we don't care how your entry gets here, just…get it here if you can"!
“The End” - Kings of Leon
According to Robert Fripp of King Crimson, one of Rolling Stone and Gibson's top 50 guitarists of all time, "music is the wine that fills the cup of silence". Well help us fill your cup with wine and your silence with music. Whether you're into witch house, prog rock, broken beat, concertos, grindcore, freeform jazz, crust punk, dub step, shoegaze, Finnish humppa or you just love cranking a plain ol' power ballad up to 11, we have a wine for you and we want to make some noise about it. However, if you like Justin Bieber, we will have to see some ID please.