Since the start of my involvement with wine, I set out to take the message of wine to whoever was prepared to listen.
You don’t have to know anything about wine to appreciate wine. I take great satisfaction knowing that such thinking instilled the first interest in many of today’s most passionate Maltese wine lovers.
Gaining access to different groups of people was not easy, but one of the most effective ideas that attracted new people to wine was by bringing different forms of pleasure together.
The most successful of these was when we combined wine with music, especially classical music, since the two art forms have many similarities which are enjoyed by both groups of enthusiasts.
I remember way back in 1999, the first ever event of this kind that I was involved in was a piano recital by Mro Brian Schembri. The recital exposed many wine lovers to classical music, and many music lovers were exposed to wines that we served at a very emotionally uplifting party after the concert. The candle was lit. Many other such events took place, both in Malta and abroad
But what is the connection?
The first that comes to mind is the different levels of appreciation. Whilst both can be enjoyed at an individual level, there is no doubt that they are best expressed and appreciated when they are shared, especially amongst like-minded people.
Listening to a recording or drinking a bottle of wine at home is one height of enjoyment, but attending a live performance, or visiting the vineyard where the wine originates, is another thing altogether.
Both music and wine have the ability to relax the human body and mind, lift the spirit and evoke creativity, poetry and other art forms. Some of the greatest artists of all times were inspired by wine, music or both.
Studies have also shown that there could be a heightened pleasure if you link specific pieces of music with specific types of wine. Although this theory is very subjective and personal, it is based on the sort of principals of wine and food matching with ‘like with like’ or ‘contrast’ ideals.
Music and wine talk often sound the same, and both subjects have critics that can often be confusing and frustrating, or easy to understand and educational. Most people would understand what a soft wine or soft piece of music is all about. The same goes for dramatic, harsh, harmonious, melodic and so on. Not so much when it comes to sexy, unforgiving or exotic.
Another fundamental similarity between wine and music is the fact that the criteria that distinguishes great wine from good is the same that distinguishes great music or artists.
Joseph Calleja tells me that for tenors to be great, they must have the ability to sing at a high calibre over a long period of time. They must be unique and recognisable.
Calleja also believes that music should not be for the elite or the experts. This approach, which has been supported by his management and recording companies, has given classical music back to the people and introduced the genre to a new generation of music enthusiasts.
This is evident from Calleja's hugely popular summer concerts in Malta, as well as his most recent recordings of popular 20th century artists such as Mario Lanza and Montovani, and other popular occasions.
What is fascinating is that most musical people have very heightened senses of taste and are extremely accurate tasters. Calleja himself sometimes amazes me with his tasting abilities.
At a recent light lunch, I asked him to distinguish two flavours that one does not normally associate with salad, but which I often use since they make salads more wine friendly. These were a special salt made with tartrates of wine called Seldevin, and a few drops of a meat extract called Viandox. At the first forkful he recognised the special salt, and on the second the meat flavoured drops.
I think that the interest from the wine industry has been well established, with regular concerts held in many wine growing regions. Things are likely to take a much bigger stage since music giants such as Decca, and well established opera theatres and companies, are now fully supporting the idea. Very high calibre concerts take place in areas such as Saint-Emilion in Bordeaux, Beaune in Burgundy, Montalcino in Tuscany, Napa in California and Malta on regular basis.
Yes, the link between good music and good wine is now well established.
It is up to you to embrace it.