Wine Tasting Playlist Tips

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In the July/August issue, we interview comedian, blogger and wine lover Marissa A. Ross. She hosts regular wine tastings at DomaineLA, where she’s known for her smart wine picks and fun soundtracks meant to “incite dancing and other gregarious behavior.” We asked Ross for more tips on how to set the right tone for wine tastings.

Ross: When hosting a wine tasting (or any event, really), there are three important things: the wines, the snacks and the music. There have been countless studies done on how music affects wine, and it is something to take into consideration whether you’re picking a Pandora station or hauling all your vinyl to DomaineLA, which is what I tend to do. A haphazardly assembled playlist can throw off wines just like a poorly placed blue cheese can damn near kill an otherwise outstanding Sauvignon Blanc. Here are my tips for handling the responsibility of playing DJ when you are totally not a DJ.

1. Decide The Vibe
Before you start choosing your music, figure out what the vibe of this gathering is. There are many factors that can help determine your vibe, including but not limited to the wines, the season, the weather, the crowd and the venue. If you’re serving up all bright white varietals in the middle of August outside, you should probably go for upbeat and summery jams. If it’s nearly November and you’re pouring pithy Pinots, maybe something folky and soothing is more appropriate. Maybe you’re serving Merlots to Metalheads and need to be conscious of the fact that they will be expecting eight to ten Iron Maiden songs. All things you should figure out beforehand right along with which flavor of Rain Crisp crackers you’re going to buy.

2. Find The Story
Putting together a tasting is much like putting together a three-act play. Each wine builds into the next and compliments the others. How do you feel about the wines you chose and what is the story those wines tell for you? The music should be a soundtrack to those sentiments and take your guests to that place. For me, I like a lot of salty rosés that remind me of summers in Malibu getting crushed by the ocean, so I use a lot of old surf music like The Ventures. There is no way you’re going to drink a salty rosé and hear “Walk Don’t Run” and not immediately think of the beach. I don’t have to tell you the rosé tastes like the ocean, the music has already taken you there.

3. Mix It Up
Don’t be afraid of using various styles of music to soundtrack your tasting. As I mentioned, I use a lot of surf, but that doesn’t stop me from throwing in other genres. You can go from bossa nova to modern garage rock to rap as long as they have similar or natural tempo progressions and smooth transitions. And it’s just fun to mix it up. You’re not drinking three bottles of the same wine, so why listen to all the same music?

4. Do Whatever The Hell You Want
Honestly, it’s your damn tasting. Do whatever the hell you want and play whatever you want. Just have fun while you’re doing it.

Here’s a standard playlist of mine, in LPs:
Glenn Miller Plays Selections Of The Glen Miller Orchestra & Other Hits
Dave Brubeck Time Out
Martin Denny Paradise
The Beatles Please Please Me
Takashi Terauchi Nippon Guitars
The Ventures Walk Don’t Run
The Allah-Las Worship The Sun
Monster Rally Coral
Mac Demarco Salad Days
Real Estate Self-Titled