From smooth wine to smooth jazz, the words we use to describe experiences can be oddly consistent, even when we’re talking about completely different senses! One great example of this is the surprising amount of overlap between the vocabulary we have for music and that for wine.
Skeptical? Consider—have you ever praised someone’s silky singing voice or complimented the silkiness of a well-aged Bordeaux? Noticed the sweetness of residual sugars in a glass of dessert wine while considering the sweetness of a beautiful melody? Lost yourself in lingering notes at a concert or enjoyed the lingering finish of a Cabernet Sauvignon?
You might be tempted to chalk this up to a lack of verbal creativity, but nothing could be further from reality. In truth, the entire vocabulary of wine is steeped in metaphor—we discuss a wine’s “grippiness”, appreciate its “bouquet”, comment on the “velvety” mouthfeel. And where the vocabularies of music and wine overlap, the contributions from both worlds help us share our personal sensory experiences in ways that others will understand!
To kick off the calendar year, Wine Collective did a deep-dive into the world of jammy wines that we lovingly dubbed “Jam-uary”. And since we’re not ones for being one-note, we’ve followed our salute to jammy wines with some jams of a different sort.
We’ve curated a special Song & Sip pack, pairing together a playlist and a wine for each of our musical tasting notes—Smooth, Lively, Delicate, and Mellow. Below you’ll find an explanation of the tasting notes, along with a link to each playlist, so you can get lost in a world of music to drink wine to. So pour yourself a glass, turn up the volume, and let your ears and taste buds delight you in perfect harmony.
Decoding Tasting Notes: Smooth
What makes wine “smooth”?
When a wine is referred to as smooth, it generally describes a very drinkable (some might even say “quaffable”) wine with soft, rounded out tannins. In addition to giving wine a bitter, astringent quality, tannins bind to the proteins in saliva, leaving your tongue feeling dried out and coated. This is what it means for a wine to be “grippy”. Smooth wines are the opposite, with tannic flavours well incorporated into the overall flavour profile, and little to no lasting sensation in the mouth. When you think of smooth wines, think bold flavourful reds with a supple texture.
What makes music “Smooth”?
When you think of music that’s smooth, do you think of smooth jazz? (It’s probably either that or Santana.) While smooth jazz gets a bad rap, it’s actually not a bad wine comparison, with “smooth jazz” being the “easy-listening” to wine’s “easy-drinking”. In jazz, smoothness denotes a lack of improvisation or dissonance in a track. Basically, a smooth jazz song is not meant to challenge the listener. Even when smooth isn’t used to describe jazz, smoothness in music tends to refer to songs with deep, rich, qualities that envelop the listener rather than challenging them. Think songs with little syncopation, no dissonance, and singers with a pleasant “silky” timbre (silky, by the way, being another common wine tasting term for smooth wines.)
Feeling Smooth? The Smooth Wine in our Song & Sip pack is the 2020 Genio Español Garnacha from Familia Bastida, an easy-drinking spanish wine packed full with red fruit flavours and aromas. And while you’re quenching your thirst, you can check out the Smooth Sippin’ Playlist!
Decoding Tasting Notes: Lively
What makes wine “lively”?
While it definitely sounds like one of the more abstract wine tasting notes, liveliness actually has a very specific meaning in wine, and that meaning is acidity! How do you know if you’re drinking a lively wine? Wines with more acid will make your tongue tingle and your mouth water. They’re often less sweet, light-bodied, lower in alcohol content and very fresh to the taste. In addition to “lively” and “fresh”, you’ll also often hear them described as “zesty” or “bright”, all of which refer to a higher acid content in wine.
What makes music “Lively”?
Unlike lively wine, lively music is something people instinctively understand. Lively music is fun and up-tempo, it makes you want to move, maybe even get up and dance! In sheet music notation, where much of the terminology is in Italian, the term used for an upbeat tempo is allegro, which is often translated as a “brisk, lively tempo.” Sometimes translations of allegro will refer to it as a “bright” and lively tempo, as it is meant to connote not only a speed but also a joyfulness to the manner of playing. You will sometimes even see the hilariously redundant note allegro allegro, meaning a song should be played at “an even livelier allegro.”
Feeling Lively? The 2020 Quando Sauvignon Blanc in our Song & Sip pack comes from a 6th generation South African family winery, and is a fresh, dry, old world-style white with green and tropical notes. And if those tropical notes should move you to dance, you can check out the Lively Sippin’ Playlist!
Decoding Tasting Notes: Delicate
What makes wine “delicate”?
A delicate wine is pleasant without being overpowering, with soft, well-balanced flavours and aromas and no obtrusive notes to speak of. You’ll usually hear “delicate” used to describe light or medium weight wines that have lovely yet subtle flavours. Delicate wines won’t kick your teeth in with flavour, but they reward quiet contemplation, ideally on a sunny summer’s day.
What makes music “delicate?”
Music that’s played delicately (or delicato if we’re still feeling Italian) is pleasantly gentle and subtle, perhaps even downright quiet. Think soft, contemplative melodies, maybe even the faint chime of bells in the background. Like delicate wine, delicate music isn’t going to jump out and grab your attention—you need to meet it in the middle and discover its beauty for yourself.
Feeling Delicate? The 2020 Villa Locatelli Pinot Blanc in our Song & Sip pack is a fresh, medium-bodied Italian white wine with orchard fruit notes mixed in with a touch of citrus and tropical fruit. Contemplate its flavours to the accompanying sound of the Delicate Sippin’ Playlist!
Decoding Tasting Notes: Mellow
What makes wine “mellow”?
Wines that are described as mellow have pleasing, well-integrated flavours and fewer or softer tannins. They’re not grippy on the tongue or sharp, but tend to be juicy, fruit-forward, possibly even a little jammy! Mellow wines are awesome to share, and are a great option for a social occasion like a dinner party or backyard barbecue.
What makes music “mellow”?
Just like mellow wines, mellow music is less about being the star of the show and more about having an overall experience. Who amongst us doesn’t have a mellow playlist to put on in the background during a dinner party, or for a quiet night in unwinding with a good book? Mellow music doesn’t necessarily have to be slow, but it definitely isn’t quick. Instead, mellow songs are characterized by relaxing, pleasant melodies, warmer sound quality, and a lack of complex layered instrumentals.
Feeling Mellow? The mellow wine included in our Song & Sip pack is the 2020 Vallena Valpolicella, an easy-drinking Italian blend packed with sweet red fruit flavour. Share a bottle with a friend and have a lovely conversation over the soothing background sound of our Mellow Sippin’ Playlist.
Enjoy a Sensory Experience: Music to Drink Wine To
While it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what qualities of wine and music lend themselves to being such striking similarities in language, what is clear is that both music and wine have the power to ignite our imaginations, provoke our emotions, and downright force us to find the words to talk about them. They’re also both prone to being described in Italian for some reason. (This is probably unrelated.)
If you’re looking for creative ways to expand your wine vocabulary, or simply like the idea of having music to drink wine to (and vice versa), check out WineCollective’s Song & Sip pack and let our curated four-bottle collection of musical tasting note wines delight your taste buds while the accompanying playlists make your toes tap and your heart sing.