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Music and wine: The perfect pairings

BY Stephan Moccio

9th Aug 2022 Music

Music and wine: The perfect pairings

Award-winning musician Stephan Moccio introduces us to his solo music and pairs it with a selection of full-bodied, palate-pleasing fine wines

Stephan Moccio is a Grammy-award winning producer and artist who was worked with scores of stars including Paloma Faith, Dua Lipa and Ne-Yo.

He co-wrote hits like Celine Dion's "A New Day Has Come" and Miley Cyrus's "Wrecking Ball".

He also happens to be really into wine. Here, he talks us through some of his favourites and pairs them with selections from his own solo tracks. 

Burgundy

I have a song called "Burgundy". This particular piece of music is on Tales of Solace.

Like a good Burgundy, the textures and the harmonies in this piece are really complex. They sound simple, and I go to great lengths to make things that are complex feel and sound simple, but the harmony in here and the harmonic base is very textured, as a Burgundy wine is for me.

Burgundy is an old-world wine, if you will, and this particular piece of music has old world elements to it.

Zinfandel

Years ago, I actually wrote a piece of music called "Red", which is an old piece that I wrote around 2005. I had had the luxury in my life to have already tasted some incredible wines.

In my early thirties, I was all about the big thick wines, the fat reds. I was drinking a lot more new world wines, particularly Californian wines.

"Red" is a piece on my earlier piano album called Exposure. The reason I called it "Red" is because it is in F sharp minor, a relative of A major, and because of my synaesthesia, I see red when I hear that key.

"It is in F sharp minor, and because of my synaesthesia, I see red when I hear that key"

This particular piece of music reminds me of the thickness and the boldness of a Cabernet Sauvignon. Though at the time of writing that song, it was a Zinfandel.

It was again the fact that F sharp minor reminds me of a really dark ruby red, the colour of a Zinfandel or a fat new world big red wine.

Sancerre

"Sea Change" is a personal favourite of mine. I’m going to compare this one to a Sancerre wine, which is a white wine of the French variety.

The song "Sea Change" for me, like the wine, is light and risky and refreshing.

This piece of music in particular starts off with a very dark opening, but it transforms into this really airy beautiful space that feels like a sunlit room.

The Sancerre is crisp. It’s cold, which I love in particular on a hot summer day. And the song "Sea Change", when it goes from the minor key to the major key for the rest of the song, opens up like just a beautiful sun-filled day.

If you listen to "Sea Change", there’s a euphoria to it and a certain magic. The Sancerre, again being an old-world grape, also has that sort of complexity to it.

Californian Chardonnay

"Le Jardin de Monsieur Monet" is another piece that, in many ways, really addresses my synaesthesia.

"Le Jardin de Monsieur Monet" is a bouquet of flowers—it’s an ode to Givenchy, which is the garden of Monet in France. When I have a great buttery Chardonnay, I am transported to that garden. 

"When I have a great buttery Chardonnay, I am transported to Monet's garden"

There are Chardonnays from all over the world, but I am still partial to favour the Californian Chardonnay. It is often a full-bodied and wide Chardonnay, as opposed to the Sancerre which is a lot lighter. This particular Chardonnay has butter and oak flavours.

I often equate the incredible amount of colours that you see in an impressionistic garden with the tastes of a great thick Chardonnay. 

Carbernet Sauvignon

The piece "Halston" is an ode to my favourite grape. If there were a gun to my head and I was asked to pick one variety for the rest of my life, Cabernet Sauvignon is the wine that I would choose.

I'm pairing it with my piece "Halston" because "Halston" is such a dense composition. The cab is one of the biggest reds in the world. A good vintage for a cab is a ‘97. I love a great Californian Cabernet Sauvignon.

"Halston" is a dark piece, as is a cab grape colour. "Halston" deals with the tragedy of Halston’s life as a designer, his rise and his fame.

Amaroni

Amaroni is the great Venetian wine, the one that has the most alcohol content—and probably triggers the biggest hangover! It is the most potent red of the ones I have chosen. 

Where the average cab has a 14 to 14.5 per cent alcohol content, this one typically begins at 15.8 to 16.5, which is significant for a wine.

The Amaroni is paired with a piece called "Havana 1958" from my Lion Heart album—an ode to Havana in Cuba and the 1958 Cuban revolution.

Up until approximately 1958, it was la dolce vita. La dolce vita is something often referred to in Italy.

"Although the Amaroni is an Italian wine, in a lot of ways culturally it goes hand in hand with pre-revolutionary Havana"

Pictures and movies of Havana from the golden age of pre-1958 show everyone having the best time, particularly after the second world war. They were happy times.

Families were reunited, people were drinking and Amaroni, as I mentioned, is probably the quickest way of all the wines I have selected to become intoxicated.

It is a really bold wine, the type you would drink whilst smoking a Havana Cuban cigar. Although the Amaroni is an Italian wine, in a lot of ways culturally it goes hand in hand with pre-revolutionary Havana.

Pinot Noir

I'm going to equate this one with the first piece of Tales of Solace called "Il Était Une Fois" (which means "once upon a time"). 

Sideways is one of the great wine movies out there. It’s about a couple of friends that take a wine trip down the California coast and go to a bunch of wineries. That movie rebirthed Pinot in a lot of cultures.

Pinot Noir is a medium to light weight wine, and the reason why we like it now is it's a very sophisticated variety. It goes with a sophisticated palette.

You really have to pay a lot more attention to what you are putting on your tongue with the Pinot, in order for it to elevate the different flavours.

By virtue of it being a medium or lighter wine, I would typically begin the night with it. If we are with a group of friends and we are going to open up a bottle between say, four people, it's very common to, over a three or four course meal, have four bottles of wine.

The Pinot would begin the night and, as the song describes, "there was once upon a time" is probably the best way to open up the story.

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