I’m what I like to call a “mood drinker” - I pick wines based on my mood and take it from there - for sipping, or choosing what I’m going to eat, or what I’ll be doing with the day or evening. I plan it around my mood, and the first thing I choose based on my mood is what wine I’ll be drinking.
But one of the most important things to me that works in unison with a person’s mood is music. I keep playlists in my laptop based on different genres of music, but instead of labeling them “jazz,” classical,” “rock,” etc., I have them labeled according to grape type. That probably sounds strange, and perhaps it is, but after trial and error over the past few years, it’s very obvious that Chardonnay won’t pair with Claudio Villa (I need Chianti for that), Pinot Noir doesn’t pair with Metallica, and Champagne absolutely will not pair with Glen Hansard. (In fact, Glen Hansard’s music seems to be almost impossible for me to pair a wine to thus far.)
It was no surprise to me that Pinot Noir and Chardonnay seem to go nicely with jazz. Their smooth, classy characteristics seem to mirror jazz. Sauvignon Blanc seems to be most enjoyable with equally bright and happy surroundings. The biggest shock came when I was preparing dinner one evening and sipping a good Bordeaux, when The Who began playing on my laptop, and I realized somehow that Cabernet and rock are perfect together. It’s hard to explain, but it just felt right.
But “mood drinking” can be obvious in some instances. I’ll bet that very few people would want to drink a Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc by the fireplace on a winter evening. And I don’t think too many people drink Barolo at barbecues and pool parties. Some pairings are just so clear - bigger reds during the cooler months, crisp whites in the summer. Special bottles on special occasions, casual familiar wines for weeknight sipping.
And then there are times when it’s just more fun to listen to one type of music over the others. I keep Italian, French, Spanish, and Brazilian music available for when I’m in such a mood, usually when cooking. Claudio Villa is perfect with Chianti while I’m working on homemade ravioli or gnocchi. And certain wines, like particular foods or types of music, are best enjoyed in the company of others, while others are best for an evening alone. I, for one, will not drink bubbles when I’m alone. It just doesn’t feel right and I can’t seem to enjoy it. But an off-beat red that puts me in a wine geek frame of mind and sends me to Jancis Robinson’s Oxford Companion to Wine for some serious research - well, dinner companions wouldn’t want to wait for me to research a strange grape or region, so I’d rather do that when I’m sipping alone.
It’s actually a lot of fun to put some thought into that kind of pairing, but often it requires no planning, because a mood can spontaneously determine what we’re up for - the wine, the food, the music, and anything else. And spontaneous can be really fun.