glen ellen chardonnayA classic cheap Chardonnay from California, this shows ripe pear, melon, and a little butterscotch. It’s advertised as “sunshine in a glass” and that is exactly what it is. Bright, ebullient, almost aggressive fruit, with obvious sweetness, full bodied, with lots of weight, but sour acidity that causes the finish to fall apart—bold and clunky but suitable as a beach wine.

I chose to review this because it was designated as an excellent test case for the claim that the music you play while drinking a wine can influence how it tastes. This thesis is advanced by winemaker Clark Smith, author of Postmodern Winemaking, and for many years a top consultant for wineries seeking his expertise in winemaking technology.

According to Smith, if you listen to the Beach Boy’s California Girls while sipping this wine it will taste wonderful because the mood of the wine matches the mood of this upbeat but silly song. By contrast if you pair this wine with Ella Fitzgerald singing St. Louis Blues there is a mismatch of emotional expression. The downtempo loneliness and mournful horns feel wrong when sipping this frolicsome, sweetish, and manifestly unserious wine.

I must say I think Smith is right about this. The Beach Boy’s song makes the wine feel like it’s a bit more integrated, the acidity balances the fruit and the finish more or less holds them in place. When paired with the blues tune the harmony is more fragile. The effect is small and it doesn’t magically transform this blowsy fruit bomb into an elegant princess but there may be something to the thesis.

Try it at home.

Score: 82

Price: $6

Alc: 13.5%