During the 1990s, the world’s popular music scene saw a surge of new genres and sub-genres. It was a decade when music categories like Britpop, grunge, neo-soul, Golden Age hip-hop, gangsta rap, trance and alternative rock all emerged or blossomed.
Alcoholic beverages remained the subject of many song lyrics, with spirits and beer becoming more popular topics. But there were still some hit songs during the decade that spoke of wine, and this article looks at four of them that made it to No. 1 in some category and the types of modern wines that might pair nicely with the lyrics.
Time to open a bottle and get the music on.
Song: “Champagne Supernova”
- Artist: Oasis
- Year: 1995
- Highest ranking: 1 (U.S. Billboard Modern Rock Tracks)
- Lyrics: “Someday you will find me, Caught beneath the landslide, in a Champagne supernova, a Champagne supernova in the sky.”
It’s hard to take too seriously the lyrics of this song from the Britpop sensation Oasis when they include such lines as “slowly walking down the hall, faster than a cannonball, where were you while we were getting high?” I don’t know where I was when songwriter Noel Gallagher wrote the song, but I believe I know what he did immediately prior to putting pen to paper, which would explain the absurdity of the lyrics.
Still, Champagne supernova is just a very cool sounding title for a song and Champagne is just an awesome wine. However, this somewhat psychedelic song calls for a Champagne that is a little different from the rest, so let’s go with Blanc de Noirs.
Champagne is generally made from a blend of three grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, the last two of which are black grapes.
The juice in almost all grapes is clear. By gently pressing the juice out of the black grapes and then removing it from contact with the skins, a white wine can be made from black grapes. Using this process, Blanc de Noirs is a clear Champagne made entirely from one or both of the two black grapes allowed in the wine.
What is unique about Blanc de Noirs is that although it is clear, it has aromas of red fruits like raspberries and strawberries, normally associated with red wines or rosés.
Song: “I’ll Make Love to You”
- Artist: Boyz II Men
- Year: 1994
- Highest ranking: 1 (U.S.)
- Lyrics: “Pour the wine, light the fire, girl your wish is my command.”
Although lyricists might have started writing more about beer and spirits in the 1990s, one thing remained the same when they wrote about seduction: Wine was the beverage of choice.
Perhaps the song that best demonstrated that wine was still the king of alcoholic beverages for would-be Romeos was the huge Boyz II Men hit love song, “I’ll Make Love to You.” The song reached No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard Top 100 on Aug. 27, 1994 and stayed at the top position for 14 weeks, tying at the time the record for the longest run at No. 1.
Part of songwriter Babyface’s lyrics come off as rather pathetic, begging to get his lady into the sack: “Girl your wish is my command, I submit to your demands, I’ll do anything, girl you need only ask.”
If only Babyface had known of the powers of the Italian red wine Amarone, he would not have had to stoop to such emasculated pleadings. Just saying the name of the wine, which sounds a lot like amore – the Italian word for love – might have flipped the script in his favor.
This wine from the northern Italy region of Veneto is made with a special process called appassimento in which the grapes are left to dry for four months after harvesting to concentrate their flavors.
The result is an incredibly opulent wine that is silky and full of lush fruit flavors. It is also high in alcohol content for a wine; high enough to allay some inhibitions and cause that feeling where it seems like the room is too warm to be wearing so many clothes.
Song: “Strawberry Wine”
- Artist: Deana Carter
- Year: 1995
- Highest ranking: 1 (U.S. Billboard Hot Country singles)
- Lyrics: “Like strawberry wine and seventeen, The hot July moon saw everything, My first taste of love, Oh bittersweet.”
That strawberry wine Deana Carter sang about in her hit country single was quite possibly Boone’s Farm Strawberry Hill, which is about as much a wine as American processed cheese is a cheese.
The song tells about a real-life experience of songwriter Matraca Berg, and at the age of 17, strawberry wine probably tasted pretty good. Now at 52, Berg’s tastes in wine have evolved, but what’s wrong with some flavors of strawberries in a wine?
There’s a wine made in Italy called Fragolino, a name that is very similar to fragola, the Italian word for strawberry. Unlike almost all wines on the consumer market, the grapes used to make real Fragolino aren’t from the vitis vinifera species, but from a vitis labrusca species grape called Isabella. For some dubious reasons, wines made from this grape have been banned for sale in the EU, although it is not illegal to produce such a wine, and the sale is not illegal in the U.S.
Still, finding real Fragolino, which has pronounced aromas and flavors of strawberries, is next to impossible. Many who have tried the real thing long for it for the rest of their lives, experiencing something similar to Berg’s bittersweet taste of first love.
There are, however, a number of wines produced in northern Italy these days that bear the name Fragolino, even if they aren’t made with Isabella grapes. Many of them are sparkling or slightly sparkling similar to Moscato. They are moderately sweet wines with flavors of strawberries that would pair very well with desserts, especially those with berries or chocolate.
- Artist: Alanis Morissette
- Year: 1996 (as a single)
- Highest ranking: 1 (Canada)
- Lyrics: “It’s a black fly in your Chardonnay, It’s a death row pardon two minutes too late, And isn’t it ironic … don’t you think?”
The most ironic thing about alt-rocker Alanis Morissette’s song that won the Canadian Juno Award for Single of the Year is that the examples of irony she sings about in “Ironic” aren’t, by definition, ironic.
Consider “a black fly in your Chardonnay.” Regardless of the color of the fly, having one in your glass of Chardonnay isn’t ironic to the ABC – Anything But Chardonnay – crowd; it’s a godsend.
Chardonnay is one of those wines that people either love or hate. What is really ironic is that some people who say they hate Chardonnay will also tell you that they like Chablis, or Pouilly Fuisse, or Meursault. All three are made of 100 percent Chardonnay, which is a very malleable grape that reflects its growing climate and soil tremendously. In addition, the wines it produces can taste much different depending on the winemaking and aging techniques.
The traditional California style of Chardonnay, which uses heavy malolactic fermentation and oak aging, produces a creamy, buttery, smoky wine. That style was once very popular – and still is with some folks – but has fallen out of mainstream favor. Increasingly now, winemakers are going easy on malolactic fermentation and are skipping the oak aging all together. This results in lighter, more refreshing Chardonnays that are actually much more suitable for warm climates like Cayman’s.
Chablis, the version of Chardonnay made in the northern Burgundy region of France, has been making these types of refreshing wines since the 12th century. Having a black fly in your glass of good Chablis might not be ironic, but it would be a darn shame.